Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

John 4

Verses 1-3

Vv. 1-3. “ When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, 2, though Jesus did not himself baptize, but his disciples, 3, he left Judea, and departed again into Galilee.

John 4:1. explains the motive which leads Jesus to leave Judea: A report has reached the Pharisees respecting Him, according to which this new personage may become more formidable than John himself. Οὖν , therefore: because of this great concourse of people, mentioned in John 3:23-26. The title: the Lord (in the larger part of the MSS.), is but rarely applied to Jesus during His earthly life (John 6:23; Joh 11:2 ). It pre-supposes the habit of representing Jesus to the mind as raised to glory. It is frequent in the epistles. If it is authentic in this passage (see the various reading of three MSS., which read: Jesus), it is occasioned either by the feeling of the divine greatness of Jesus, which manifests itself in the preceding section, or, more simply, by the desire of avoiding the repetition of the name of Jesus, which occurs again a few words further on. The expression had heard excludes a supernatural knowledge. We see in what follows that the tenor of the report made at Jerusalem is textually reproduced; comp. the name of Jesus instead of the pronoun He, and the present tenses ποιεῖ and βαπτίζει , makes and baptizes. Jesus must have appeared more dangerous than John, first, because of the Messianic testimony which John had borne to Him, and, then, because of His course of action which was much more independent of legal and Pharisaic forms; finally, because of His miracles; with relation to John, comp. John 10:41. The reading of the five Mjj., which omit ἤ , than, could only have this meaning: “that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus is making more disciples, and that (on his side) John is baptizing.” This meaning is strange, and even absurd. The term disciples, which here denotes the baptized, will be found again in Joh 7:3 in this special sense.

The practical conclusion which Jesus draws from this report may lead us to suppose that John had been already arrested and that, as Hengstenberg thinks, the Pharisees had played a part in this imprisonment; comp. the term παρεδόθη , was delivered up, Matthew 4:12; it was, he says, by the hands of the Pharisees, that John had fallen under the power of Herod. But it will be asked why Jesus retires into Galilee, into the domain of Herod; was not this running in the face of danger? No; for this prince's hatred to John was a personal matter. As to His religious activity, Jesus had less hindrance to fear on the part of Herod than on that of the dominant party in Judea.

The remark of Joh 4:2 is designed to give precision to the indefinite expression used by the evangelist himself, John 3:22: that Jesus is baptizing. Nothing is indifferent in the Lord's mode of acting, and John does not wish to allow a false idea to be formed by his readers, respecting one of His acts. Why did Jesus baptize, and that without Himself baptizing? By baptizing, He attested the unity of His work with that of the forerunner. By not Himself baptizing, He made the superiority of His position above that of John the Baptist to be felt. He recalled to mind that which the latter had said: “I baptize you with water, there cometh another who will baptize you with the Spirit and with fire,” and reserved expressly for Himself that higher baptism. The first of these observations makes us understand why, at the end of a certain time, He discontinued the baptism of water, and the second, why He re-established it later as a type of the baptism of the Spirit which was to come. At all events, we must not compare this course of action with that of Paul ( 1Co 1:17 ) and of Peter ( Act 10:48 ), which had quite another aim. If He gave up this rite in the interval, this fact stands in relation to that other: that Jesus ceased taking a Messianic position in Galilee, to content Himself with the part of a prophet, up to the moment when He presented Himself again in Judea as the Son of David and the promised Messiah (chap. 12). At the same time, He gave up transforming into a Messianic community, by means of baptism, that Israel whose unbelief emphatically manifested itself towards Him. There are therefore three degrees in the institution of baptism: 1. The baptism of John: a preparation for the Messianic kingdom by repentance; 2. The baptism of Jesus, at the beginning of His ministry: a sign of attachment to the person of the Messiah, with the character of disciples; 3. The baptism re-instituted by Jesus after His resurrection: a consecration to the baptism of the Spirit. Those who had received the first of these three baptisms (e.g., the apostles) do not seem to have submitted afterwards to the second or third. Jesus made use of them to administer these two latter baptisms (John 4:2; Acts 2:0). It is not without reason that Beck has compared the baptism of infants in the Christian Church with the second of these three baptisms.

The departure from Judea is pointed out, John 4:3, as a distinct act of return to Galilee; and this because, according to John 4:1, the real object of Jesus was much less to go thither than to depart thence. The word πάλιν , again, which is read by six Mjj., alludes to a previous return to Galilee ( Joh 1:44 ). John avails himself of each occasion to distinguish these two returns which had been identified by the Synoptic tradition (see on Joh 3:24 ). This adverb is, therefore, authentic, notwithstanding the numerous MSS. and critics that omit it or reject it.


1. The statement of John 4:1, as related to the narrative, is introduced simply as accounting for the occurrence of the incident about to be mentioned. In relation to the plan of the book, however, it seems to belong with other passages in which the writer is at pains to show how carefully Jesus avoided all things which might hasten the final catastrophe before the appointed hour. He moved in all His life, so the writer would have his readers understand, with reference to that hour.

2. The words of John 4:2, which are a correction of the report which came to the Pharisees, can hardly have been added merely for this purpose. There must have been an intention on the evangelist's part to give his readers a fact of some consequence in itself with regard to the work of Jesus. The significance of the fact may possibly be found in the relation of Jesus to John. The baptism of water was the peculiarity of John's office, that of the Spirit the peculiarity of His own. In introducing the new system, however, it was natural that there should not be an abrupt and entire breaking off of the old. John was the one who opened the way, and the union of what followed with what preceded was through him. This union, in connection with the great symbolic act of baptism, was most naturally manifested by the continuance of what John had done; but the passing away of the old and the entering in of the new, was suggested by the fact that Jesus did not Himself baptize with water, but only with the Spirit.

Verses 1-26

I. Jesus and the Samaritan Woman: John 4:1-26 .

In this first phase we see how Jesus succeeds in awaking faith in a soul which was a stranger to all spiritual life. The historical situation is described in John 4:1-6.

Verses 1-42

Second Section: 4:1-42. Jesus in Samaria.

The first phase of the public ministry of Jesus is ended. Unbelief on the part of the masses, faith on the part of a few, public attention greatly aroused, such is the result of His work in Judea. Nevertheless the uneasiness which He sees appearing among the leaders of the people with relation to Himself, is for Him the signal for retreat. He does not wish to engage prematurely in a conflict which He knows to be inevitable. He abandons Judea therefore to His enemies and, returning to Galilee, He makes that retired province, from this time onward, the ordinary theatre of His activity.

The direct road from Judea to Galilee passed through Samaria. But was it the one which was followed by the Jews, for example the Galilean caravans which went to the feasts at Jerusalem? Writers ordinarily answer in the affirmative, resting upon the passage of Josephus Antiq. 6.1: “It was the custom of the Galileans to pass through Samaria in order to go to the feasts at Jerusalem.” But R. Steck has concluded, not without reason, from a passage in the Life of Josephus (chap. 52): “Those who wish to go quickly from Galilee to Jerusalem must pass through Samaria,” that the custom of which that author speaks in the Antiquities was not so general as the first passage seems to imply. Perhaps this road was that of the festival caravans; but it was not that of the Jews who were of strict observance, at least in private life. As to Jesus it has been claimed that by following this road in this case, He would have put Himself in contradiction to His own word in Matthew 10:5, where, on sending them out to preach, He said to the apostles: “ Go not into the way of the Gentiles and enter not into any city of the Samaritans; but go ye rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. ” But, between passing through Samaria ( διὰ τῆς Σαμαρ . , Joh 4:4 ) and making the Samaritan people the object of a mission, there is an easily appreciable difference. We should much rather acknowledge, with Hengstenberg, that it might be befitting for Jesus to give once, during His earthly life, an example of largeness of heart to His apostles which might afterwards direct the Christian mission throughout the whole world. Luk 9:51 proves that Jesus really did not fear to approach the Samaritan soil.

The fact which is to follow has a typical significance. Jesus Himself acutely feels it ( Joh 4:38 ). This Samaritan woman and these inhabitants of Sychar, by the readiness and earnestness of their faith, and by the contrast of their conduct with that of the Israelitish people, become in His eyes the first- fruits, as it were, of the conversion of the Gentile world. There is therein a sign for Him of the future destiny of the kingdom of God on earth. Must we from this conclude, with Baur, that this whole account is only an idea presented in action by the author of our Gospel? Certainly not. If the Samaritan woman was nothing but a personification of the Gentile world, how would the author have put into her mouth (John 4:20 f.) a strictly monotheistic profession of faith, as well as the hope of the near advent of the Messiah (John 4:25; comp. ver.

42)? Because a fact has an ideal and prophetic significance, it does not follow that it is fictitious. If there is a story of the Saviour's life which, by reason of the vivacity and freshness of its totality and its details, bears the seal of historic truth, it is this. Renan himself says: “Most of the circumstances of the narrative bear a strikingly impressive stamp of truth.” ( Vie de Jesus, p. 243.) As an example of faith, this incident is connected with the two preceding representations: that of the faith of the apostles (John 1:38 ff.) and that of the visit of Nicodemus ( Joh 3:1-21 ). These are the luminous parts of the narrative which alternate with the sombre parts, representing the beginning of unbelief (John 1:19 ff.; John 2:12 ff.; John 3:25 ff.).

We distinguish in this narrative the following three phases: 1. Jesus and the Samaritan woman: John 4:1-26; John 2:0. Jesus and the disciples: John 4:27-38; John 3:0. Jesus and the Samaritans: John 4:39-42.

Verses 1-54

Second Cycle: 2:12-4:54.

This second cycle is naturally divided into three sections:

1. The ministry of Jesus in Judea, Joh 2:12 to John 3:36;

2. The return through Samaria: John 4:1-42;

3. The settling in Galilee, John 4:43-54.

We shall see that to these three geographical domains three very different moral situations correspond. Hence the varied manner in which Jesus reveals Himself and the different reception which he meets.

Verses 4-5

Vv. 4, 5. “ Now he must needs pass through Samaria. He cometh thus to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground which Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

Εδει , it was necessary: if one would not, like the very strict Jews, purposely avoid this polluted country (comp. p. 416); Jesus did not share this particularistic spirit. The name Sychar is surprising; for the only city known in this locality is that which bears the name of Shechem, and which is so frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. Can there be an error here of a writer who was a stranger to Palestine, as the adversaries of the authenticity of our Gospel claim? We think the solutions scarcely probable which make the name Sychar a popular and intentional corruption of that of Shechem, deriving it either from Scheker, falsehood (city of falsehood, that is to say, of heathenism), or from Schekar, liquor (city of drunkards; comp. Isaiah 28:1, the drunkards of Ephraim). We might rather hold an involuntary transformation through an interchange of liquid letters which was frequent (as e.g., that of bar for ben, son).

But the most natural solution is that which is offered by the passages of Eusebius and Jerome, in which two neighboring localities bearing these two distinct names are positively distinguished. Eusebius says in the Onomasticon: “Sychar before Neapolis.” Neapolis, indeed, is nothing else then the modern name of Shechem. The Talmud speaks also of a locality called Soukar, of a spring Soukar, of the plain of Soukar. At the present day also, a hamlet exists very near Jacob's well and situated at the foot of Mount Ebal, which bears the name El-Ascar, a name which very much resembles the one which we read in John and in the Talmud. Lieut. Conder and M. Socin also give their assent to this view. It seems certain, moreover, that the ancient Shechem was situated somewhat more to the east than the present city of Nablous. This is proved by the ruins which are discovered everywhere between Nablous and Jacob's well (see Felix Bovet, Voyage en Terre-Sainte, p. 363). Petermann (art. Samaria in Herzog's Encyclop. xiii. p. 362) says: “The emperor Vespasian considerably enlarged the city on the western side.” In any case, to see, with Furrer, in this name Sychar an indication of the purely ideal character of the account, one must be thoroughly preoccupied by a preconceived theory ( Bibellex., iii., p. 375). It is at Nablous that the remnant of the Samaritan people who are reduced to the number of about one hundred and thirty persons live at the present day.

According to de Wette. Meyer, and others, the gift of Jacob to Joseph, mentioned in this fifth verse, rests on a false tradition, even arising from a misunderstanding of the LXX. Genesis 48:22, Jacob says to Joseph: “ I give thee one portion (Schekem), above thy brethren, which I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow. ” As the patriarch has just adopted as his own the two children of Joseph, it is natural for him to assign to this son one portion above all his brethren. But the Hebrew word ( Schekem) which denotes a portion of territory (strictly shoulder) is at the same time the name of the city, Shechem; and it is claimed that the LXX., taking this word in the geographical sense (as the name of a city), gave rise, through this false translation, to the popular legend which we find here, and according to which Jacob left Shechem as a legacy to Joseph. But it is incontestable that when Jacob speaks “of the portion of country which he had taken from the Amorites with his bow and his sword,” he alludes to the bloody exploit of his two sons, Simeon and Levi, against the city of Shechem ( Gen 34:25-27 ): “ Having taken their sword, they entered the city of Shechem, and slew all its inhabitants and utterly spoiled it. ” This is the only martial act mentioned in the history of the patriarch.

Notwithstanding its reprehensible character, Jacob appropriates it to himself in these words, as a confirmation of the purchase which he had himself previously made ( Gen 33:19 ) of a domain in this district of Shechem, and he sees therein, as it were, the pledge of the future conquest of this whole country by his descendants. Thus, then, by using in order to designate the portion which he gives to Joseph, the word schekem, it is the patriarch who makes a play upon words, such as is found so frequently in the Old Testament; he leaves to him a portion ( Schekem) which is nothing else than Shechem. His sons so well understood his thought, that, when their descendants returned to Canaan, their first care was to lay the bones of Joseph in Jacob's field near to Shechem ( Jos 24:32 ), then to assign, as a portion, to the larger of the two tribes descended from Joseph, that of Ephraim, the country in which Shechem was located. The LXX. not being able to render the play upon words in Greek, translated the word schekem in the geographical sense; for it was the one which had most significance. There is here, therefore, neither a false translation on their part, nor a false tradition taken up by the evangelist.

Verse 6

Ver. 6. “ Jacob's well was there; Jesus therefore, wearied by his journey, sat thus by the well; it was about the sixth hour.

This well still exists; for “it is probably the same which is now called Bir-Jackoub ” ( Renan, Vie de Jesus, p. 243). It is situated thirty-five minutes eastward of Nablous, precisely at the place where the road which follows the principal valley, that of Mukhna, from south to north, turns suddenly to the west, to enter the narrow valley of Shechem, with Ebal on the northeast and Gerizim on the southwest. The well is hollowed out, not in the rock, as is commonly said, but rather, according to Lieutenant Anderson, who descended into it in 1866, in alluvial ground; the same person has ascertained that the sides are for this reason lined with rude masonry. It is nine feet in diameter.

In March, 1694, Maundrell found the depth to be one hundred and five feet. In 1843, according to Wilson, it was only seventy-five feet, owing, doubtless, to the falling in of the earth. Maundrell found in it fifteen feet of water. So also Anderson, in May, 1866. Robinson and Bovet found it dry. Schubert, in the month of April, was able to drink of its water. Tristram, in December, found only the bottom wet, while, in February, he found it full of water. At the present day, it is blocked up with large stones, five or six feet below the aperture; but the real opening is found several feet lower. A few minutes further to the north, towards the hamlet of Askar, the tomb of Joseph is pointed out. Robinson asks with what object this gigantic work could have been undertaken in a country so abounding in springs as many as eighty are counted in Nablous and its environs. There is no other answer to give but that of Hengstenberg: “This work is that of a man who, a stranger in the country, wished to live independently of the inhabitants to whom the springs belonged, and to leave a monument of his right of property in this soil and in this whole country. Thus the very nature of this work fully confirms the origin which is assigned to it by tradition.”

The caravan, leaving the great plain which stretches towards the north, directed its course to the left, in order to enter the valley of Shechem. There Jesus seated Himself near the well, leaving His disciples to continue their journey as far as Sychar, where they were to procure provisions. He was oppressed by fatigue, κεκοπιακώς ( wearied), says the evangelist; and the Tubingen school ascribes to John the opinion of the Docetae, according to which the body of Jesus was only an appearance! Οὕτως ( thus), is almost untranslatable in our language; it is doubtless for some such reason that it is omitted in the Latin and Syriac versions. It signifies: without further preparation; taking things as He found them. According to the meaning given by Erasmus, Beza, etc., “wearied as He was,” the adverb would rather have been placed before the verb; comp. Acts 20:11; Acts 27:17 ( Meyer). The imperfect ( ἐκαθέζετο ), is descriptive; it does not mean: He seated Himself, but: He was seated; (comp. John 11:20; John 20:12; Luke 2:46, etc.). The word refers not to what precedes, but to what follows. “He was there seated when a woman came...” The sixth hour must denote mid-day, according to the mode of reckoning generally received at that time in the East (see at Joh 1:40 ). This hour of the day suits the context better than six o'clock in the morning or evening. Jesus was oppressed at once by the journey and the heat. The first part of the conversation extends as far as John 4:15; it is immediately connected with the situation which is given.


3. The word οὕτως of Joh 4:6 is to be understood, with Godet, Meyer, R. V., and others, as equivalent to as He was, without ceremony.

4. The sixth hour almost certainly means noon here, the reckoning being from six in the morning, the beginning of the Jewish day. This method of reckoning is quite probably the uniform one in this Gospel, but it is not certainly so in every case. In the matter of counting the hours of the day, there is everywhere a tendency to vary, at different times, by reason of the fact that, whatever may be the starting-point of customary reckoning, the daylight hours are those which represent the period of activity and of events. It is to be remembered, also, that the author was living in another region from that in which the events recorded had taken place.

5. The conversation here opens very naturally, and there would seem to be no difficulty in supposing that Jesus may have directly answered the remark of the woman with the words of John 4:10. The difference, in this regard, between this case and that of Nicodemus ( Joh 3:2-3 ), is noticeable; in the latter, some intervening conversation must be supposed.

Verses 7-9

Vv. 7-9. “ A woman of Samaria comes to draw water. Jesus says to her: Give me to drink. 8. For his disciples had gone to the city to buy food. 9. The Samaritan woman therefore says to him: How is it that thou, being a Jew, dost ask drink of me who am a Samaritan woman. ( For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. ”)

How was it that this woman came so far to seek water, and at such an hour? She had undoubtedly been working in the fields, and was coming to draw water on her return to her home at the hour of dinner (see at Joh 4:15 ). It has been thought that this feature suits an evening hour better, since that is ordinarily the hour when the women go to the well. But in that case this woman would undoubtedly not have been found here alone ( Meyer, Weiss).

The objective phrase: of Samaria, depends on the word woman, and not on the verb comes; for, in the latter case, Samaria would mean the city of that name; an impossible meaning, since that city was situated three leagues to the northeast. The request of Jesus must be understood in the most simple sense, and regarded as serious. There is no allegory in it; He is really thirsty; this follows from the word wearied. But this does not prevent Him, in beginning a conversation with the woman, from obeying another necessity than that of thirst namely, of saving (John 4:32; Joh 4:34 ). He is not unaware that the way to gain a soul is often to ask a service of it; there is thus conceded to it a kind of superiority which flatters it. “The effect of this little word was great; it began to overturn the wall which had for ages separated the two peoples,” says Lange. The remark of Joh 4:8 is intended to explain that, if the disciples had been present, they would have had a vessel, an ἄντλημα , to let down into the well. Indeed, in the East, every caravan is provided with a bucket for drawing from the wells which appear on the road (see Joh 4:11 ). This explanation given by the evangelist, proves the complete reality, in his view, of the need which called forth the request of Jesus. There is no longer here anything of docetism! Does the expression, the disciples, denote all the disciples without exception? Might not one of them, John, for example, have remained with Jesus? It would be strange enough that Jesus should have been left there, absolutely alone, in the midst of a hostile population; and twelve men were not necessary to procure provisions! Meyer's prudery is offended at such a simple supposition, and Reuss goes so far as to say: “The luminous idea has been formed of leaving John at the place to take notes.” The Jewish doctors said: “He who eats bread with a Samaritan is as he who eats swine's flesh.” This prohibition, however, was not absolute; it did not apply either to fruits or to vegetables. As to corn and wine, we are ignorant. Uncooked eggs were allowed; whether cooked, was a question ( Hausrath, Neutest. Zeitgesch., I., p. 22). It is proved, however, that the most strict Rabbinical regulations belong to a later epoch.

How did the Samaritan woman recognize Jesus as a Jew. By His dress or His accent? Stier has observed that in some words which Jesus had just spoken the letter שׁ occurred, which, according to Judges 12:6, distinguished the two pronunciations, the Jewish ( sch), and the Samaritan ( s); לשׁחת תני ( teni lischechoth; Samaritan: lisechoth). The last words ( οὐ γὰρ συγχρῶνται ) are a remark of the evangelist, with a view to his Gentile readers who might be unacquainted with the origin of the Samaritan people (2 Kings 17:24 ff.). It was a mixture of five nations transported from the East by Esarhaddon to re-people the kingdom of Samaria, the inhabitants of which his predecessor had removed. To the worship of their national gods, they united that of the divinity of the country, Jehovah. After the return from the Babylonish captivity, they offered the Jews their services for the rebuilding of the temple. Being rejected, they used all their influence with the kings of Persia, to hinder the re-establishment of the Jewish people. They built for themselves a temple on Mount Gerizim. Their first priest was Manasseh, a Jewish priest who had married a Persian wife. They were more detested by the Jews than the Gentiles themselves were. Samaritan proselytes were not received. It has been thought that the woman, in frolicsomeness, exaggerated somewhat the consequences of the hostility between the two peoples, and that in submitting to Jesus this insignificant question, she wished to enjoy for a moment the superiority which her position gave her. This shade of thought does not appear from the text. The Samaritan woman naively expresses her surprise.

Verse 10

Ver. 10. “ Jesus answered and said unto her: If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is who says unto thee: Give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked of him thyself, and he would have given thee living water.

To this observation of the woman Jesus replies, not by renewing His request, but by making her an offer by means of which He reassumes His position of superiority. To this end, it is enough to raise this woman's thoughts to the spiritual sphere, where there is no more anything for Him but to give, and for her but to receive. The expression: The gift of God, may be regarded as an abstract notion, whose concrete reality is indicated by the following words: who it is that says to thee (so in our first edition). The words of Jesus in John 3:16: “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,” favor this sense, according to which Jesus is Himself the gift of God. But as Jesus distinguishes Himself from the living water, in the following words, it is better to see in the words: He who says to thee, the agent through whom God makes this gift to the human soul. God gives Jesus to the world, and Jesus gives to it the living water. Living water, in the literal sense, denotes spring- water, in contrast with water of a cistern, or stagnant water. Genesis 26:19: “ Israel's servants dug in the valley, and found there a well of living water,” that is, a subterranean spring of which they made a well; comp. Leviticus 14:5. In the figurative sense, living water is, therefore, a blessing which has the property of incessantly reproducing itself, like a gushing spring, like life itself, and which consequently is never exhausted. What does Jesus mean by this?

According to Justin and Cyprian, baptism; according to Lucke, faith; according to Olshausen, Jesus Himself; according to Calvin, Luthardt, Keil, the Holy Spirit; according to Grotius, the evangelical doctrine; according to Meyer, truth; according to Tholuck, Weiss, the word of salvation; according to Westcott, eternal life, consisting in the knowledge of God and of His Son Jesus Christ ( Joh 17:3 ); this scholar cites as analogous the Rabbinical proverb: “When the prophets speak of water, they mean the law.” Lange, according to John 4:14: The interior life, especially with reference to peace in the heart. It seems to me that, according to Jesus Himself ( Joh 4:13-14 ), it is, as Westcott thinks, eternal life, salvation, the full satisfaction of all the wants of the heart and the possession of all the holy energies of which the soul is susceptible. This state of soundness of the soul can only be the result of the dwelling of Jesus Himself in the heart, by means of His word made inwardly living by the Holy Spirit (chaps. 14-16). This explanation includes, therefore, all the others up to a certain point.


6. The living water of which Jesus speaks in Joh 4:10 is supposed by Godet to be the eternal life, and he refers to John 4:13-14, as showing this to be the correct view. The words of those verses, however, speak of this water as being a well of water springing up into eternal life. We find also, in the sixth chapter, that the living bread and the bread of life are presented as that which is the means and support of life in the believer. It would seem more probable, therefore, that, in this expression, that which forms the basis and principle of the new life is referred to, than the new life itself. That which Jesus gives to the world in one view, grace and truth, in another view, Himself as the source of life may be understood as that to which He refers.

Verses 11-12

Vv. 11, 12. “ The woman says to him: Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence, then, hast thou that living water? 12. Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and who drank of it himself, as well as his sons and his cattle?

The Samaritan woman takes the expression living water in its literal sense. She means: “Thou canst neither ( οὔτε ) draw from the well the living water which thou offerest to me for thou hast no vessel to draw with nor ( καί ), because of its depth, canst thou reach by any other means the spring which feeds it.” Unable to suppose that He is speaking spiritually, she cannot understand that He offers her what He has Himself asked from her ( Westcott). The term κύριε , Sir, expresses, however, profound respect. She calls Jacob our father, because the Samaritans claimed descent from Ephraim and Manasseh (Joseph. Antiqq. 9.14, 3). Θρέμματα : servants and cattle, everything requiring to be supported. It is the complete picture of patriarchal nomad life which appears here.

Verses 13-14

Vv. 13, 14. “ Jesus answered and said to her: Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again; but he that shall drink of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing up unto eternal life.

It is to no purpose that the water of the well is spring-water; it is not that which Jesus means by living water; it has not the power of reproducing itself in him who drinks it; so, after a certain time, the want revives and the torment of thirst makes itself felt. “A beautiful inscription,” says Stier, “to be placed upon fountains.” Such water presents itself to the thought of Jesus as the emblem of all earthly satisfactions, after which the want reappears in the soul and puts it again in dependence upon external objects in order to its satisfaction.

Jesus defines in Joh 4:14 the nature of the true living water; it is that which, reproducing itself within by its own potentiality, quenches the soul's want as it arises, so that the heart cannot suffer a single moment of inward torment of thirst. Man possesses in himself a satisfaction independent of earthly objects and conditions. ᾿Εγώ ; yes, I, (in opposition to Jacob). With Reuss, I formerly referred the words εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον , unto eternal life, not to time, but to the effect produced, to the mode of appearance: in the form of eternal life. The parallel term, however, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα for ever, favors rather the temporal sense, “ even to the life without end.


6. The living water of which Jesus speaks in Joh 4:10 is supposed by Godet to be the eternal life, and he refers to John 4:13-14, as showing this to be the correct view. The words of those verses, however, speak of this water as being a well of water springing up into eternal life. We find also, in the sixth chapter, that the living bread and the bread of life are presented as that which is the means and support of life in the believer. It would seem more probable, therefore, that, in this expression, that which forms the basis and principle of the new life is referred to, than the new life itself. That which Jesus gives to the world in one view, grace and truth, in another view, Himself as the source of life may be understood as that to which He refers.

7. The word eternal life, in John 4:14, is placed in a parallelism with εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα , and, for this reason, it seems here to be carried forward in its meaning to the future. The thought in this place is of the future and final blessedness, as well as of the present inward life, and the former is thrown into prominence, as the contrast is intended to be between the passing away of the satisfaction coming from the earthly source and the never-ending blessing of the life in union with Him.

Verse 15

Ver. 15. “ The woman says to him: Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, neither pass this way to draw.

This woman's request has certainly a serious side. The respectful address, Sir, is sufficient to prove this. It follows likewise from the grave character of the answer of Jesus. Even though the absence of spiritual wants causes her not to understand, she is impressed; can this man indeed have the power of working such a miracle? Nevertheless, the expression of the desire which she experiences to have her life made more comfortable has in it something naive and almost humorous. The last words reproduce the promise of Jesus: “shall not thirst.” The reading of the two oldest MSS.: “that I pass no more this way,” instead of: that I come hither no more, should undoubtedly be adopted. No one would have substituted this for the received reading. It confirms the idea that we have expressed: namely, that the woman was merely passing that way, as she returned to her house.

The first phase of the conversation is closed. But Jesus has raised a sublime ideal in this woman's imagination that of eternal life. Could he abandon her before having taught her more on this subject, since she had thus far shown herself teachable.

Verses 16-18

Vv. 16-18. “ Jesus says to her: Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17. The woman answered and said: I have no husband. Jesus says to her: Thou hast well said: I have no husband. 18. For thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband. In this thou hast said truly.

Westcott observes that the natural transition to this invitation, which is apparently so abrupt, is perhaps to be found in the last words of the woman: “that I pass no more this way to draw,” which suggest persons of her family for whom she is performing this duty. Must we seek the object of this request in the moral effect which it should produce on the woman, by giving Jesus the opportunity to prove to her his prophetic knowledge ( Meyer, Reuss, etc.)? Certainly not, for there would then be a miracle of exhibition, which would not be in harmony with the ordinary simplicity of Jesus. The invitation must be its own justification. Others think that Jesus proposed to Himself to awaken in this woman the sense of her life of sin ( Tholuck, Luthardt, Bonnet, Weiss, etc.).

But under this form of supposition also, the means used have something of indirectness, which does not seem to be in entire conformity with the perfect sincerity of the Lord. The true reason of it seems to me rather to be this: Jesus did not wish to act upon a dependent person without the participation of the one to whom she was bound, and the more because the summoning of the latter might be the means of extending His work. Meyer makes the nature of the relation which united them an objection. But the arrival of this woman, at so unusual an hour, had undoubtedly been for Jesus the signal of a work to be done; and there is nothing to show that, when addressing this invitation to the woman, Jesus had her antecedents already present to His mind. Might not the term, thy husband, indeed, be completely justified by this supposition? The prophetic insight may not have been awakened in Him till He heard the answer which struck Him: “ I have no husband: ” She had been married five times; and now, after these five lawful unions, she was living in an illicit relation. The fact that she did not venture to call the man with whom she is living her husband, shows in this woman a certain element of right character.

The reply of Jesus is not free from irony. The partial assent which He gives to the woman's answer, has something sarcastic in it. The same is true of the contrast which Jesus brings out between the number five and the: “I have no!” The emphatic position of the pronoun σοῦ before ἀνήρ implies, perhaps, the following understood antithesis: “Not thine own, but the husband of another. ” From this it would follow that she had lived in adultery. It is not absolutely necessary, however, to press so far the meaning of this construction. Modern criticism, since the time of Strauss (see especially Keim and Hausrath), connects this part of the conversation with the fact that the Samaritan nation was formed of five eastern tribes which, after having each brought its own God, had adopted, besides, Jehovah, the God of the country ( 2Ki 17:30-31 ). The woman with her five husbands and the man with whom she was now living as the sixth, are, it is said, the symbol of the whole Samaritan people, and we have here a proof of the ideal character of this story. The view rests especially on this statement of Josephus ( Antiq. 9.14, 3): “Five nations having brought each its own God to Samaria.” But 1, in the O. T. passage ( 2Ki 17:30-31 ), there is, indeed, a question of five peoples, but, at the same time, of seven gods, two peoples having introduced two gods. 2. These seven gods were all worshiped simultaneously, and not successively, up to the moment when they gave place to Jehovah; a fact which destroys the correspondence between the situations. 3. Is it conceivable that Jehovah would be compared to the sixth husband, who was evidently the worst of all in the woman's life? If the reading six of Heracleon, has reference to the ancient Samaritan religion, it does not refer to the addition of Jehovah to the other five gods, but rather to 2 Kings 17:30, where there is an allusion to six or seven gods brought in by the Eastern Gentiles.


8. The turn in the conversation at Joh 4:16 is somewhat difficult to account for. It must be explained in connection with the progress of the story, and hence we may believe that it has reference to the end which Jesus had in view respecting the woman's spiritual life. In the case of Nicodemus, He met one of the leading men of the Jewish nation, who had come to ask Him concerning the kingdom of God. Nicodemus' attention had been already aroused and his mind had moved in the domain of this great subject. In the case of this woman, on the other hand, attention was to be aroused, and, both for herself and the people of her city, the wonder of His personality and His knowledge must be brought before her mind. For this reason, partly if not wholly, it may be supposed that He left the words concerning the living water to make their impression, and turned at once to a new point which might even more excite her astonishment and stir her thought. This new point, also, would have a bearing upon her own personal life and awaken her moral sense. Godet thinks that Jesus did not wish to act upon a dependent person without the presence of the one to whom she was bound.

The objection which Meyer presents is conclusive “the husband was nothing more than a paramour.” The reply which Godet makes, that the prophetic insight may not have been awakened in Jesus with regard to her antecedents until He heard her reply, “I have no husband,” is, as Meyer remarks, “a quite gratuitous assumption,” and, it may be added, one which contradicts all the probabilities of the case. The commentators have pursued this woman and her five husbands relentlessly, some of them even making all of the five, like the sixth, not her husbands, and some thinking of separation by divorce from some of them or that she had been unfaithful and forsaken them. But there is no foundation for suppositions of this character, as there is generally none for similar conjectures of one kind or another which, in other cases, a certain class of writers on the Old and New Testaments are disposed to make. Even Meyer, who holds that the five husbands had been lawfully married to her, says such a history had already seared her conscience, and appeals to Joh 4:29 as proof of this. He is obliged to add, however, “ how? is not stated. ” Joh 4:29 says nothing about her conscience; it says only that she saw that Jesus knew the facts of her past history. It was His knowledge that impressed her.

Verses 19-20

Vv. 19, 20. “ The woman says to him: Sir, I see that thou art a prophet. 20. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain;and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

Some see in this question of the woman only an attempt to turn aside the disturbance of her conscience, “a woman's ruse” ( de Wette) with the design of escaping from a painful subject. “She diverts attention from her own life by proposing a point of controversy” (Astie). But would Jesus reply, as He does, to a question proposed in such a spirit? Besser and Luthardt go to the opposite extreme: This question is, in their view, the indication of a tortured conscience, which, sighing for pardon, desires to know the true sanctuary to which it can go to make expiation for its faults. This is still more forced. Reuss, with an irony which assails the evangelist himself, says: “If she asks the question thus, it is only for the purpose of bringing out the declaration of the Lord which we are about to read.” Westcott says rightly: “Here is the very natural inquiry of a soul which finds itself face to face with an interpreter of the divine will.” This woman has recognized in Jesus a prophet; she has at the same time found in Him largeness of heart.

The two answers, John 4:17; John 4:19, have proved that, notwithstanding her faults, she is not altogether wanting in right character. It follows even from Joh 4:25 that religious thoughts are not strange to her, that she is looking for the Messiah and that she waits to receive from Him the explanation of the questions which embarrass her. The fact of a Jewish prophet, present before her eyes, inspires her with doubts as to the religious claim of her nation. Is it not an altogether simple thing, that, in her present situation, after her conscience has been so profoundly moved, her thoughts should turn to the great religious question which separates the two peoples, and that she should ask the solution of it? It is an anticipation of the more complete teaching which she expects from the Messiah. By the term: our fathers, she perhaps understands the Israelites of the time of Joshua, who, according to the reading of the Samaritan Pentateuch ( Deu 27:4 ), raised their altar on Mount Gerizim, and not on Ebal; in any case, she understands by this expression all the Samaritan ancestors who had worshiped on Gerizim, from the period when a temple was built there in Nehemiah's time.

This temple had been destroyed by John Hyrcanus one hundred and twenty- nine years before Christ. But even after this event, the place had remained a sacred spot Deuteronomy 11:29, as it still is at the present day. It is there that the Samaritans even now celebrate the feast of the Passover every year. Jerusalem not being named anywhere in the law, the preference of the Samaritans for Gerizim found plausible reasons in the patriarchal history. The superiority of the Jewish sanctuary could be justified only from the standpoint of the later books of the Old Testament. But we know that the Samaritans admitted only the Pentateuch and the Mosaic institution. When she said: on this mountain, she pointed to it with the finger. For Jacob's well is situated directly at the foot of Gerizim. She confines herself to setting forth the antithesis, thinking indeed that Jesus will understand the question which follows from it.



The evident sincerity and earnestness of the woman in what follows may lead us to believe, that, in the words which are given in John 4:20, she did not intend merely to turn the conversation from an unpleasant subject. Whether she was yet awakened to desire instruction in righteousness from Jesus or not, she no doubt put the question with an honest purpose. The explanation given by Godet here is the more natural one, as compared with those of the writers who go to either extreme of interpretation which he mentions. In the reply of Jesus, the following points may be noticed:

1. The development of the thought here is, as it is in the interview with Nicodemus, determined by the state of mind of the person with whom Jesus was speaking, and by the circumstances of the conversation. At the same time, the conversation moves toward a final result which involves an important testimony, and in connection with this fact the story finds its place among these narratives which are selected by the author for purposes of proof, and as giving actual proofs which were brought before the minds of the disciples. The great truth of the spirituality of religion is brought out here, as it is in what was said to Nicodemus. But here it is suggested in connection with the matter of worship, instead of the entrance into the kingdom of God, because this was the question which occupied the mind of the one with whom Jesus was now speaking. If, however, God is a Spirit and true worship must therefore be spiritual, it naturally follows, for the mind that moves far enough to comprehend the truth, that the life in union with God must be entered by a new birth of the Spirit. But there is something further here: namely, a distinct declaration of the Messiahship of Jesus. This had not been stated in terms to Nicodemus, or in the scenes at the first Passover, or at the wedding-feast at Cana. In the matter of testimony it was an addition to all that preceded the word from Jesus Himself saying: I am the Christ. He had said what might imply as much in His words to Nicodemus. He had suggested the thought by His reference to rebuilding the temple, and had given evidence of Messianic power in the first miracle. But now He declares it in a sentence which can have but one meaning. On His return, therefore, from Jerusalem towards Galilee after the first Passover, the last element in the testimony is presented to the disciples through this chance conversation, as it seemed, in a Samaritan town which may lead them to be confirmed in their belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

The reason why this declaration was made to this Samaritan woman, and not publicly in Jerusalem, is explained, on the one hand, by the fact already alluded to that the “hour” of Jesus was the directing-power of His life in relation to the entire matter of His manifestation of Himself, and, on the other, by the retirement and remoteness from the central life at Jerusalem of this town in Samaria. But for the inner life of the disciples it mattered little where the testimony was presented to their minds, while in the due order of impression its place was necessarily and properly after the testimonies mentioned in the earlier chapters. The declaration now given at the end would naturally throw its influence back, as they thought of it, upon all which had been heard or seen before, and would become a guiding and illuminating power in their reflections on what had occurred, and also on what they might find occurring in the future. We may see clearly, therefore, how the writer follows, in the insertion of this chapter, as truly as before, an intelligent plan.

Verse 21

Ver. 21. “ Jesus says to her: Woman, believe me;the hour cometh when neither on this mountain nor at Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father.

The position of Jesus is a delicate one. He cannot deny the truth, and He must not repel this woman. His reply is admirable. He has just been called a prophet, and He prophesies. He announces a new economy in which the Samaritans, having become children of God, will be set free from that local sanctuary which the woman points out to Him on the summit of Gerizim, but without being compelled for this reason to go to Jerusalem. The filial character of this new worship will free it from all the external limitations by which all the old national worships were burdened. If the privilege of Gerizim passes away, it will not be that it may be assigned to Jerusalem. “You will not bring the Jews hither; but they shall no more force you to go to them. You shall meet each other, both parties alike, in the great family of the Father's worshipers.” What treasures cast to such a soul! What other desire than that of doing His Father's will could inspire in Jesus such condescension! The aorist πίστευσον in the T. R. signifies: “Perform an act of faith.” We can understand the prefixing of the apostrophe: woman, in this reading which makes such an earnest appeal to her will. The present πίστευε in the Alexandrian documents simply signifies: “Believe from this moment and for the future.” Both the readings may be sustained. This summons to faith answered to this woman's profession: “Thou art a prophet.” The subject you of shall worship might denote the Samaritans and Jews ( Hilgenfeld), or men in general (so in my 2d ed.), in contrast to Jesus Himself or to Jesus and His own. But this woman could not regard herself as the representative either of humanity in general, or of the Samaritans and Jews together. The subject of you shall worship must rather be derived from those words of her question in John 4:20: Our fathers worshiped. It is the Samaritans only.

Verses 21-26



With reference to particular points in Joh 4:21-26 the following suggestions may be offered:

1. In the words of Joh 4:21 we may see from the outset that Jesus' desire was to draw attention to the spirituality of worship, and it is not improbable that, as the account of the conversation was given to the disciples, it was His design to turn their thoughts also away from the ideas of place, which belonged to their former education, and to show them, at this early stage of their new life, the great difference between the new and the old.

2. The distinction made between the Jews and the Samaritans in Joh 4:22 is apparently to be determined as to its precise meaning by the last clause of the verse. It was because salvation was from the Jews, that it could be affirmed that they worshiped that which they knew and the Samaritans, that which they knew not. The latter did not stand on the same ground with the heathen nations. They were not entirely without the knowledge of the only true God. But they were not in the line of the Divine education under the Old Covenant, they did not receive the full revelation which had been made, and they were not the nation in the midst of whom appeared the Christ to know whom, as well as the true God, is the eternal life. They were moving apart from the light, rather than in the light.

3. The true worship is evidently set in opposition to that of place, and thus to the ideas of both parties. But the added words show that Jesus in His thought goes beyond this mere opposition, and enters into the idea of spiritual worship as considered in itself. The foundation of it is the fact that God is a spirit. He therefore seeks as His worshipers those who worship in that sphere where He Himself dwells. The πνεῦμα is the part of man which is kindred in its nature to God, and which is capable of real fellowship and communion with God. It is that part of man into which the Divine Spirit enters by His influence and power. The only full communion with God, therefore, must be in the πνεῦμα . But as the πνεῦμα of man is in and with him wherever he may be, he must be, as a worshiper, independent of place, so soon as he understands the true sphere and nature of worship. The addition of the word ἀλήθεια must also be explained, it would seem, by the contrast with the idea of place. It cannot, for this reason, as well as for those given by Godet and Meyer (that the Jew or Samaritan could offer a sincere prayer, and that it follows so soon after ἀληθινοί ), have the meaning in sincerity. Doubtless, it partakes of the signification of ἀληθινοί in this place, and means truth as answering to the true idea.

4. Godet supposes that John may have been present with Jesus and thus have heard this conversation. This is not impossible, though the impression of the narrative is that all the disciples had left Him for the time. That Jesus should have repeated the substance of the conversation to them soon afterwards, would seem very natural. It was an interview so remarkable in its results, indeed, that the disciples could hardly have failed to question Him particularly concerning it, and the truth which He had expressed was so adapted to the needs of their minds that He could not but have desired to bring it before them. There is, therefore, no difficulty in the fact that John is able to report the conversation, even if he was not an ear-witness of it.

Verse 22

Ver. 22. “ Ye worship that which ye do not know; we worship that which we know, because salvation comes from the Jews.

The antithesis, which is so clearly marked between ye and we proves, whatever Hilgenfeld may say, who wrongly cites Hengstenberg as being of his opinion (comp. the Commentary of the latter, I. pp. 264-269), that the ye denotes the Samaritans and the we Jesus and the Jews. After having put His impartiality beyond suspicion by the revelation of the great future announced in John 4:21, Jesus enters more closely into the question proposed to Him and decides it, as related to the past, in favor of the Jews. “It is at Jerusalem that the living God has made Himself known; and that because it is by means of the Jews that He intends to give salvation to the world.” God is known only so far as He gives Himself to be known. The seat of the true knowledge of Him can, therefore, only be where He makes His revelation; and this place is Jerusalem. By breaking with the course of theocratic development since the time of Moses, and rejecting the prophetic revelations, the Samaritans had separated themselves from the historic God, from the living God. They had preserved only the abstract idea of the one God, a purely rational monotheism. Now the idea of God, as soon as it is taken for God Himself, is no more than a chimera. Even while worshiping God, therefore, they do not know what they worship. The Jews, on the contrary, have developed themselves in constant contact with the divine manifestations; they have remained in the school of the God of revelation, and in this living relation they have preserved the principle of a true knowledge. And whence comes this peculiar relation between this people and God? The answer is given in what follows. If God has made Himself so specially known to the Jews, it is because He wished to make use of them, in order to accomplish the salvation of the world. It is salvation which, retroactively in some sort, has produced all the previous theocratic revelations, as it is the fruit which, although appearing at the end of the annual vegetation, is the real cause of it. The true cause of things is their aim. Thus is the ὅτι , because, explained.

This passage has embarrassed rationalistic criticism, which, making the Jesus of our Gospel an adversary of Judaism, does not allow that He could have proclaimed Himself a Jew, and have Himself united in this we His own worship and that of the Israelitish people. And indeed if, as d' Eichthal alleges ( Les Evangiles I. p. xxviii.), the Jesus of the fourth Gospel, “from one end to the other of His preaching, seems to make sport of the Jews,” and consequently cannot “be one of them,” there is a flagrant contradiction between our passage and the entire Gospel. Hilgenfeld thinks that, at John 4:21, Jesus addresses the Jews and the Samaritans taken together, as by a kind of prosopopoeia, and that at John 4:22, by the words: we worship that which we know, he designates Himself, (with the believers) in opposition to these Jews and Samaritans. We have already seen at Joh 4:21 that this explanation cannot be sustained, and this appears more clearly still from the words of John 4:22: “Because salvation comes from the Jews,” which evidently prove that the subject of “ we worship ” can only be the Jews. D'Eichthal and Renan make use here of different expedients. The enigma is explained, says the first, when it is observed that this expression is only “the annotation, or rather the protest, which a Jew of the old school had inscribed on the margin of the text, and of which an error of the copyist has made a word of Jesus” (p. xxix., note). And this scholar is in exstacies over the services which criticism can render to the interpretation of the sacred writings! Renan makes a similar hypothesis. “The 22d verse, which expresses an opposite thought to that of John 4:21; John 4:23, seems an awkward addition of the evangelist alarmed at the boldness of the saying which he reports” (p. 244, note). Arbitrariness could not be pressed further. The critic begins by decreeing what the fourth Gospel must be; an anti-Jewish book. Then, when he meets an expression which contradicts this alleged character, he rejects it with a stroke of the pen. He obtains, thus, not the Gospel which is, but that which he would have. But is it supposed that the first Jew whom one might meet was in possession of the authentic copy of our Gospel, to modify it according to his fancy; or that it was very easy for any chance foreigner, when this writing was once spread abroad, to introduce an interpolation into all the copies which were in circulation among the Churches? As for Renan's hypothesis, it supposes that the evangelist thought he knew more than the Master whom he worshiped; which is not very logical. The alleged incompatibility of this saying with John 4:21; John 4:23, and with spirit of the fourth Gospel in general, is an assertion without foundation. (See Introduction, p. 127-134.)

At Joh 4:21 Jesus has transferred the question to the future, when the localized worship of ancient times should no longer exist. In John 4:22, He has justified the Jews, historically speaking. At Joh 4:23 He returns to the future announced in John 4:21, and describes all its grandeur.

Verses 23-24

Vv. 23, 24. “ But the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for also the Father seeketh such worshipers. 24. God is spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

But: in contrast with the period of Israelitish prerogative now ended. The words, and now is, added here, serve to arouse more strongly the already-awakened attention of the woman. It is as if the first breath of the new era were just passing across this soul. Perhaps Jesus sees in the distance His disciples returning, the representatives of this nation of new worshipers which in a few moments will be recruited by the first-fruits of the Samaritan people. He brings out the two characteristics of the future worship: spirituality and truth. Spirit denotes here the highest organ of the human soul, by means of which it has communion with the divine world. It is the seat of contemplation, the place of the soul's meeting with God, the sanctuary where the true worship is celebrated; Romans 1:9: “ God, whom I serve in my spirit ” ( ἐν τῷ πνεύματί μου ); Ephesians 6:18: praying in the spirit ( ἐν πνεύματι ). This spirit, in man, the πνεῦμα ἀνθρώπινον , remains a mere potentiality, so long as it is not penetrated by the Divine Spirit. But when this union is accomplished, it becomes capable of realizing the true worship of which Jesus speaks. This first feature marks the intensity of the new worship. The second, truth, is the corollary of the first. The worship rendered in the inner sanctuary of the spirit is the only true worship, because it alone is conformed to the nature of God, its object: “ God is spirit. ” The idea of sincerity does not fill out the meaning of the word truth; for a Jewish or Samaritan prayer might evidently be sincere. The truth of the worship is its inward character, in opposition to every demonstration without spiritual reality. Though these words exclude all subjection of Christian worship to the limitations of place or time, it is nevertheless true that by virtue of its very freedom, this worship can spontaneously accept conditions of time and place. But, as Mme. Guyon says, the external adoration is then “only a springing forth of the adoration of the Spirit” (quoted by Astie). The two defining words: in spirit and in truth are formal; the concrete character of the new worship is expressed by the word: the Father. The worship of which Jesus is speaking is the converse of a son with his father. We know from what source Jesus drew this definition of spiritual and true worship. “ Abba (Father) ” such was the constant expression of His inmost feeling. By adding that the Father, at this very moment, is seeking such worshipers, Jesus gives the woman an intimation that He is Himself the one sent by the Father to form this new people and that He invites her to become one of them.

The 24th verse justifies, from the essential nature of God, what He has just said of the spiritual and true nature of the worship now demanded by God Himself. Jesus does not give the maxim “ God is spirit ” as a new revelation. It is like an axiom from which He starts, a premise admitted by His interlocutor herself. The Old Testament taught, indeed, the spirituality of God in all its sublimity ( 1Ki 8:27 ), and the Samaritans certainly held it, like the Jews (see Gesenius, de Samarit. theol. p. 12, and Lucke). What is new in this saying is not the truth affirmed, but the consequence which Jesus draws from it with reference to the worship which was to come. He calls forth from it the idea of the people of the children of God offering throughout the whole world constant adoration; comp. Malachi 1:11. Thus to a guilty woman, perhaps an adulteress, Jesus reveals truths which He had probably never unfolded to His own disciples. The reading of the Sinaitic MS. ἐν πνεύματι ἀληθείας , in the spirit of truth, is derived from John 14:17; John 15:26, etc., and arises from the false application of the word πνεῦμα to the Holy Spirit.

Verse 25

Ver. 25. “ The woman says to him, I know that Messiah cometh (he who is called Christ); when he is come, he will declare unto us all things.

The woman's answer bears witness of a certain desire for light. Her Spirit yearns for the perfect revelation. This is the reason why we were not wrong in interpreting John 4:15; Joh 4:20 in a sense favorable to her character. According to modern accounts, the Samaritans actually expect a Messiah, to whom they give the name Assaef (from שׁוּב , H8740, to return); this word signifies, according to Gesenius, he who brings back, who converts; according to de Sacy and Hengstenberg, he who returns, in the sense that, as the expectation of the Samaritans was founded on Deuteronomy 18:18: “ God will raise up for you another prophet from among your brethren, like unto me,” the Messiah to their view is a Moses who returns. At the present day, they call him el-Muhdy. There is a striking contrast between the notion of the Messiah, as it is expressed by the mouth of this woman, and the earthly and political notions on this subject which Jesus encountered in Israel.

The Samaritan idea was imperfect, no doubt; the Messiah was a prophet, not a king. But it contained nothing false; and for this reason Jesus is able to appropriate it to Himself, and here declare Himself the Christ, which He did in Israel only at the last moment (John 17:3; Mat 26:64 ). The translation ὁ λεγόμενος Χριστός , who is called Christ, belongs to the evangelist. He repeats this explanation, already given in John 1:42, unquestionably because of the complete strangeness of this word Μεσσίας to Greek readers. It has been said that the Jewish term Messiah could not have been ascribed by John to this foreign woman. But this popular name might easily have passed from the Jews to the Samaritans, especially in the region of Shechem, which was inhabited by Jewish fugitives (Joseph. Antiq. 11.8. 6). Perhaps, the very absence of the article before the word Μεσσίας , indicates that the woman uses this word as a proper name, as is done in the case of foreign words (comp. Joh 1:42 ). The word ἔρχεται ( comes) is an echo of the two ἔρχεται of John 4:21; John 4:23; she surrenders herself to the impulse towards the new era which Jesus has impressed on her soul. The pronoun ἐκεῖνος , he, has, as ordinarily with John, an exclusive sense; it serves to place this revealer in contrast with all others; to that very one whom she had before her. The preposition in the verb ἀναγγελεῖ marks the perfect clearness, and the object, πάντα or ἅπαντα , the complete character of the Messiah's expected revelation.

Verse 26

Ver. 26. “ Jesus says to her: I who speak unto thee am he.

Jesus, not having to fear, as we have just seen, that he would call forth in this woman a whole world of dangerous illusions, like those which, among the Jews, were connected with the name of Messiah, reveals Himself fully to her. This conduct is not therefore, as de Wette claims, in contradiction with such words as Matthew 8:4; Matthew 16:20, etc. The difference in the soil explains the difference in the seed which the hand of Jesus deposits in it.

How can we describe the astonishment which such a declaration must have produced in this woman? It expresses itself, better than by words, in her silence and her conduct ( Joh 4:28 ). She had arrived, a few minutes before, careless and given up to earthly thoughts; and lo, in a few moments, she is brought to a new faith, and even transformed into an earnest missionary of that faith. How did the Lord thus raise up and elevate this soul? When speaking with Nicodemus, He started from the idea which filled the heart of every Pharisee that of the kingdom of God, and he drew from it the most rigorous moral consequences; for He knew that He was addressing a man accustomed to the discipline of the law. Then, He unfolded to him the truths of the divine kingdom, by connecting them with a striking Old Testament type and putting them in contrast with the corresponding features of the Pharisaic programme. Here, on the contrary, conversing with a woman destitute of all Scriptural preparation, He takes His point of departure from the commonest of things, the water of this well. Then, by a bold antithesis, He wakens in her mind the thought, in her heart the want, of a supernatural gift which may forever quench the heart's thirst. The aspiration for salvation once awakened becomes in her an inward prophecy to which He attaches His new revelations. By the teaching with reference to the true worship, He responds to the religious prepossessions of this woman, as directly as by the revelation of the heavenly things He had responded to the inmost thoughts of Nicodemus. With the latter He reveals Himself as the onlybegotten Son, while still avoiding the title of Christ. With the Samaritan He boldly uses this latter term; but without dreaming of initiating into the mysteries of the incarnation and of redemption this soul which is yet only in the first rudiments of the moral life. Certain analogies have been observed in the outward course of these two conversations, and an argument has been drawn from them against the truth of the two stories. But this resemblance naturally results from what is analogous in the two meetings: on both sides, a soul wholly earthly finding itself in contact with a heavenly thought, and the latter trying to raise the other to its own level. This similarity in the situations sufficiently explains the correspondences of the two conversations, the diversity of which is, moreover, quite as remarkable as the resemblance.

Verse 27

Ver. 27. Upon this his disciples came, and they were astonished that he was speaking with a woman; yet no one of them said:What seekest thou? or, Why speakest thou with her.

There existed a rabbinical prejudice, according to which a woman is not capable of receiving profound religious instruction: “Do not prolong conversation with a woman; let no one converse with a woman in the street, not even with his own wife; let a man burn the words of the law, rather than teach them to women” (see Lightfoot on this verse). Probably the apostles had not yet seen their Master set Himself above this prejudice. We may hesitate between the two readings marvelled ( ἐθαύμασαν ) and were marvelling ( ἐθαύμαζον ). The first gives to the astonishment the character of a momentary act, the second makes of it a continuing state. Μέντοι : However, the astonishment did not extend so far in any one of them as to lead to ask Him for an explanation. Ζητεῖν , to seek, ask, refers to a service which He had requested, like that of John 4:10; λαλεῖν to speak, to a given instruction.

Verses 27-38



The following points in Joh 4:27-38 may be noticed:

1. The impression produced upon the mind of the woman was that which came from the wonderful knowledge of Jesus respecting herself, that is, her past history. That upon Nicodemus, which led him to go to Jesus, came from the miracles. The influence which induced him to become a disciple, if indeed he became one in consequence of that first interview, was derived from the truth which he heard respecting the kingdom of God. The woman, though her past life differed from that of Nathanael, seems to have been affected by the same manifestation of unexpected knowledge or insight. That she should have personally met the Christ, seems almost impossible to her mind that one who had exhibited such knowledge might perchance be the Christ, she could not but believe. This divided state of mind, as between the possibility and the impossibility, is expressed by the form of her question ( μητί ) addressed to the people of her city.

2. The words addressed by Jesus to the disciples in John 4:32; Joh 4:34 do not seem to belong immediately to the testimony contained in this chapter, but they must have offered the disciples matter for reflection in respect to His mission. John 4:35 ff., on the other hand, called their thought to their own mission as related to His. The interpretation of these last verses must take into account the fact that what is said is evidently suggested by the circumstances of the present scene, and, on the other hand, the fact of the general form of the statement. We may believe, therefore, that, just as the remark of the disciples about eating led Jesus to say what is recorded in John 4:34, a word which teaches them of His relation to the Father, so here, the sight of the people who were approaching gives Him a vision of the future and wide-extended work of the Gospel, as the disciples were to carry it forward.

The general truth, in each case, is illustrated by what is taking place at the hour of their conversation. As related to the present scene, the disciples have returned in season to see the approaching people who are ready to believe, and perhaps to have part in receiving them as believers; but the work of sowing has been already done by Jesus. He has prepared for the result. And the ordering of the Divine plan in this way is, that they may share together in the rejoicing. This is a picture and representation of the future. So it will be in all their work; they will enter into the labors of others, and, at the end, both sowers and reapers will rejoice. So far as concerns the present scene, the sower is, undoubtedly, Jesus; but, as the words extend in their meaning and application over all the ministry of the disciples, the sowers may be all who have gone before them in the work of the kingdom of God. This twofold and enlarged application of the passage answers, apparently, all the demands of the several verses.

3. The word ἤδη is probably to be connected with John 4:35, although there is no serious difficulty in joining it, as Godet does, with the following verse.

4. The phrase ζωὴ αἰώνιος in Joh 4:36 seems to be clearly used in the sense which is common in other writings of the New Testament, but not so in John that is, as referring wholly to the future life.

Verses 28-29

Vv. 28, 29. “ The woman therefore left her water-pot and went away into the city and says to the men: 29. Come, see a man who hath told me all the things that I have done; can this be the Christ?

Therefore: following upon the declaration of John 4:26, she does not speak, she acts, as one does when the heart is profoundly moved. She leaves her water-pot: this circumstance, apparently insignificant, is not without importance. It is the pledge of her early return, the proof that she goes to seek her husband and those whom she will find. She constitutes herself thereby a messenger, and, as it were, a missionary of Jesus. What a contrast between the vivacity of this conduct and the silent and meditative departure of Nicodemus! And what truth in the least details of this narrative! Τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ( to the men), to the first persons whom she met in the public square.

There is great simplicity in the expression: All the things which I have done. She does not fear to awaken by this expression recollections which are by no means flattering to herself. She formulates her question in a way which seems to anticipate a negative answer ( μήτι , not however?). “This is not, however, the Christ, is it?” She believes more than she says, but she does not venture to set forth, even as probable, so great a piece of news. What can be more natural than this little touch.

Verse 30

Ver. 30. “ They went out of the city, and were coming towards him.

The Samaritans, gathered by her, arrive in large numbers. The imperfect, they were coming, contrasted with the aorist, they went out, forms a picture; we see them hastening across the fields which separate Sychar from Jacob's well. This historical detail gives the key to Jesus' words, which are to follow. The therefore must be rejected from the text; the attention is wholly turned to the they were coming, which follows.

Verses 31-32

Vv. 31, 32. “ In the mean while, the disciples prayed him, saying: Master, eat. 32. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat which ye know not.

John 4:31 (after the interruption of Joh 4:28-29 ), is connected with John 4:27. The words, ἐν δε τῷ μεταξύ ( in the mean while), denote the time which elapsed between the departure of the woman and the arrival of the Samaritans. ᾿Ερωτᾷν ( to ask) takes here, as often in the New Testament, and as שׁאל does in the Old Testament, the sense of pray, without, however, losing altogether its strict sense of interrogate: ask whether he will eat.

Since the beginning of His ministry, Jesus had perhaps had no joy such as this which He had just experienced. This joy had revived Him, even physically. “You say to me: eat! But I am satisfied; I have had, in your absence, a feast of which you have no suspicion.” ᾿Εγώ ( I), has the emphasis; this word places His person in strong contrast to theirs ( ὑμεῖς , you): “You have your repast; I have mine.” Βρῶσις , strictly the act of eating, but including the food, which is its condition. The abstract word better suits the spiritual sense of this saying, than the concrete βρῶμα , ( food).

Verses 33-34

Vv. 33, 34. “ The disciples therefore said one to another: Has any one brought him anything to eat? 34. Jesus says unto them: My meat is to do the will of my Father and to accomplish his work.

Μήτις introduces a negative question: “No one indeed has brought Him...?” Jesus explains the profound meaning of His answer. Here He uses βρῶμα , in connection with the gross interpretation of the disciples. We need not see in the conjunction ἵνα , as Weiss would have us, a mere periphrasis for the infinitive. That which sustains Him is His proposing to Himself continually to accomplish...The present ποιῶ this is the reading of the T. R. refers to the permanent accomplishment of the divine will at each moment, and the conjunctive aorist τελειώσω ( to accomplish, to finish), refers to the end of the labor, to the perfect consummation of the task which will, of course, depend on the obedience of every moment ( Joh 17:4 ). The reading ( ποιήσω ), of the Vatican MS., Origen, and the Greco-Latin authorities spoils this beautiful relation; it is rejected by Tischendorf and Meyer. This ποιήσω arose from an assimilation to τελειώσω .

The relation between the two substantives θέλημα ( will), and ἔργον ( work), corresponds with that of the two verbs. In order that the work of God may be accomplished at the last moment, His will must have been executed at every moment. Hereby Jesus makes His disciples see that, in their absence He has been laboring in the Father's work, and that it is this labor which has revived Him. This is the idea which He is about to develop, by means of an image which is furnished Him by the present situation.

Verses 35-36

Vv. 35, 36. “ Say ye not that there are yet four months, and the harvest cometh. Behold I say unto you: Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for they are white for the harvest. 36. Already even he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto eternal life, that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

The following verses ( Joh 4:35-38 ) have presented such difficulties to interpreters, that some have supposed that they should be transposed by placing Joh 4:37-38 before John 4:36 ( B. Crusius). Weiss has supposed that Joh 4:35 originally belonged to another context.

It must be admitted that the interpretations proposed by Lucke, de Wette, Meyer, and Tholuck are not adapted to remove the difficulties. Some see in them a prophecy of the conversion of the Samaritan people, related in Acts 8:0; others apply them even to the conversion of the entire Gentile world, and especially to the apostolate of St. Paul. In that case, it is not surprising that their authenticity should be suspected! If the words of John 4:36 ff., have no direct connection with the actual circumstances, how can we connect them with those of John 4:35, which, according to Lucke and Meyer themselves, can only refer to the arrival of the inhabitants of Sychar in the presence of Jesus? From a word stamped with the most perfect appropriateness, Jesus would suddenly pass to general considerations respecting the propagation of the Gospel. So de Wette, perceiving the impossibility of such a mode of speaking on Jesus' part, has, contrary to the evidence, resolutely denied the reference of Joh 4:35 to the arrival of the inhabitants of Sychar. This general embarrassment seems to us to proceed from the fact that the application of Jesus' words to the actual case has not been sufficiently apprehended and kept in mind. They have thus been despoiled of their appropriateness. A friendly and familiar conversation has been converted into a solemn sermon.

Vv. 35 is joined with Joh 4:30 precisely as Joh 4:31 is with John 4:27. Jesus gives His disciples to understand, as already appeared from His answer ( Joh 4:34 ), that a scene is occurring at this moment of which they have not the least idea: while they are thinking only of the preparation of a meal to be taken, behold a harvest already fully ripe, the seeds of which have been sown in their absence, is prepared for them. Jesus Himself is, as it were, the point of union between the two scenes, altogether foreign to each other, which are passing around His person: that in which the disciples and that in which the Samaritans are, with Himself, the actors. Lightfoot, Tholuck, Lucke, de Wette find a general maxim, a proverb, in the first words of John 4:35: When a man has once sowed, he must still wait four months for the time when he can reap that is to say, the fruits of any work whatever are not gathered except after long waiting ( 2Ti 2:6 ).

But in Palestine not four, but six months separate the sowing (end of October) from the reaping (middle of April). Besides, the adverb ἕτι (there are yet) would not suit a proverb; the words: since the sowing, would have been necessary. Finally, why put this proverb especially into the mouth of the Apostles ( you), rather than in that of men in general? There is then here a reflection which Jesus ascribes to His disciples themselves.

Between Jacob's well, at the foot of Gerizim, and the village of Aschar, at the foot of Ebal, far on into the plain of Mukhna, there stretch out vast fields of wheat. As they beheld the springing verdure on this freshly sown soil, they no doubt said to one another: we must wait yet four months till this wheat shall be ripe! From this little detail we must conclude that this occurred four months before the middle of April, thus about the middle of December, and that Jesus had consequently remained in Judea from the feast of the Passover until the close of the year, that is, eight full months. The words: You say, contrast the domain of nature to which this reflection of the disciples applies, to the sphere of the Spirit in which Jesus' thought is moving. In that sphere, indeed, the seed is not necessarily subject to such slow development. It can sometimes germinate and ripen as if in an instant. The proof of this is before their eyes at this very moment: ἰδού ( behold)! This word directs the attention of the disciples to a spectacle which was wholly unexpected and even incomprehensible to their minds, that of the Samaritans who are hastening across the valley towards Jacob's well. I say unto you: I who have the secret of what is taking place. The act of raising the eyes and looking, to which He invites them, is, according to de Wette, purely spiritual; Jesus would induce them to picture to themselves beforehand through faith, the future conversion of this people (comp. Acts 8:0). But the imperative, θεάσασθε ( look), must refer to an object visible at that very moment. And what meaning is to be given to the figure of four months?

The fact to which these words refer, therefore, can only be the arrival of the people of Sychar. We understand, then, the use of the imperfect they were coming ( Joh 4:30 ), which formed a picture and left the action incomplete. These eager souls who hasten towards Him disposed to believe this is the spectacle which Jesus invites His disciples to behold. He presents these souls to them under the figure of a ripening harvest, which it only remains to gather in. And, as He thinks of the brief time needed by Him to prepare such a harvest in this place, until now a stranger to the kingdom of God, He is Himself struck by the contrast between the very long time (five to six months), which is demanded by the law of natural vegetation, and the rapid development which the divine seed can have in a moment, in the spiritual world; and, as an encouragement for His disciples in their future vocation, He points out to them this difference. The ἤδη ( already), might be regarded as ending John 4:35. “They are white for the harvest already. ” This word would thus form the counterpart of ἔτι ( yet), at the beginning of the verse; comp. 1 John 4:3, where ἤδη is placed, in the same way, at the end of the sentence. This word, however, becomes still more significant, if it is placed, as we have placed it in the translation, at the opening of the following verse: ἤδη καί ( already even). This is acknowledged by Keil, who rightly observes that in this way also already forms a contrast to yet.

There is, indeed, between Joh 4:35 and John 4:36, a climactic relation which betrays an increasing exaltation. “It is true,” says Jesus, “that already the harvest is ripe, that at this very hour the reaper has only to take his sickle and reap, in order that both the sower and the reaper may in this case, at least, celebrate together the harvest-feast.” If such is the meaning, the authenticity of καί , and (after ἤδη ), is manifest, and Origen, with the Alexandrian authorities in his train, is found, once more, to have been an unfortunate corrector. After having connected ἤδη ( already), with the preceding sentence, he rejected the καί ( and or even), in order to make of John 4:36, instead of an expression full of appropriateness and charm, a general maxim. The reaper, according to John 4:38, must denote the apostles. The expression, μισθὸν λαμβάνειν ( to receive wages), describes the joy with which they are to be filled when gathering all these souls and introducing them into the kingdom of heaven. This expression ( receive wages) is explained by συνάγειν καρπόν ( to gather fruit). Perhaps there is a reference to the act of baptism ( Joh 4:2 ), by which these new brethren, the believing Samaritans, are about to be received by the disciples into the Messianic community. And why must the reaper set himself at work without delay? Because there is something exceptional to happen on this day, ἵνα ( in order that). God has intended in this circumstance to bring to pass a remarkable thing, namely: that both the sower and the reaper may once rejoice together.

Those who apply the figure of the harvest to the future conversion of the Samaritans by the apostles, or to that of the Gentile world by St. Paul, are obliged to refer the common joy of the sower (Jesus), and the reaper (the apostles), to the heavenly triumph in which the Lord and His servants will rejoice together in the fruit of their labor. But, first, this interpretation breaks all logical connection between Joh 4:35 and John 4:36. How pass directly from this spectacle of the Samaritans who hasten to Him to the idea of the future establishment of the Gospel in their country or in the world? Then, the present χαίρῃ ( may rejoice), refers naturally to a present joy, contrary to Meyer. Luthardt seeks to escape the difficulty by giving to ὁμοῦ ( together), the sense, not of a simultaneous joy, but of a common joy, which is, of course, impossible. This sense of the adverb would, moreover, suppress the idea which constitutes the beauty of this expression, the simultaneousness of the joy of the two laborers. Jesus recognizes in what takes place at this moment, a feast which the Father has prepared for Him, and which He, the sower, is about to enjoy at the same time with His disciples, the reapers. In Israel Jesus has sowed, but He never has had the joy of being Himself present at a harvest. The ingathering will one day take place, no doubt, but when He will be no longer there. Here, on the contrary, through His providential meeting with this woman, through her docility and the eagerness of this population which hastens to Him, He sees the seed spring up and ripen in a moment, so that the harvest can be gathered, and He, the sower, may, at least once in His life, participate in the harvest-feast. This simultaneousness of joy, altogether exceptional, is strongly brought out by the ὁμοῦ ( together), but also by the double καί (“ both the sower and the reaper”), and by the ἤδη ( already), at the beginning of the clause. To understand fully the meaning of this gracious expression, we must remember that the Old Testament established a contrast between the function of the sower (united with that of the laborer), and the office of the reaper. The first was regarded as a painful labor; Psalms 126:5-6: “Those who sow with tears...He who puts the seed in the ground shall go weeping...” The reaper's task, on the contrary, was regarded as a joyous thing. “They shall reap with a song of triumph...He shall return with rejoicing, when he shall bring back his sheaves.” On this day, by reason of the rapidity with which the seed has germinated and ripened, the labor of the seed sowing meets the joyous shouts of the harvest. Herein is the explanation of the construction by which the verb χαίρῃ is much more closely connected, in the Greek sentence, with the first subject ὁ σπείρων , the sower, than with the second ὁ θερίζων , the reaper: “that the sower may rejoice at the same time with the reaper.”

Weiss refers the in order that to the intention of the reaper, who, being in the service of the same landholder as the sower, wishes that the latter also may rejoice with him. The idea, if we thoroughly understand him, is that the disciples were to reap in their future ministry, and this in order that Jesus may rejoice in heaven, at the same time that they rejoice on earth. But where has Jesus ever given to His disciples such a motive as this? And in what connection would this expression stand with the present case?

Verses 37-38

Vv. 37, 38. “ For herein is the saying true: The sower is one and the reaper another. 38. I sent you to reap that whereon ye have not labored; other men labored, and ye are entered into their labor.

According to Tholuck, Jesus is grieved at the thought that He is not Himself to be present at the conversion of the Gentiles, after having prepared the way for it, and to this point it is that the proverb refers. Astie appears to be of the same opinion. Westcott thinks that Jesus prepares the apostles for the future disappointments in the apostleship. They would then be the sowers who do not reap, while the whole context proves that only Jesus can be so. Weiss: In this region of the spiritual harvest it is not as in ordinary harvests, where the sower is often the same as the reaper. But then the origin of the common maxim which Jesus quotes is not explained, for it expresses just the contrary of what would most frequently be the case in life.

Then, this sense of ἐν τούτῳ , “in the spiritual domain,” is hardly natural. This form of expression has rather a logical sense: “ In this,” that is, “in that you reap to-day what has been sown in your absence and without your knowledge” ( Joh 4:36 ): thus is the common saying verified. For if this proverb is false in the sense which is ordinarily assigned to it, namely, that he who does the main part of the labor is rarely the one who gathers the fruit of it (an accusation against Providence), it is nevertheless true in this respect, that there is a distinction of persons between him who has the charge of sowing and him who has the mission of reaping. This distinction was at the foundation ( for) of the saying in John 4:36, since the community of joy declared in that verse rests upon the duality of persons and offices affirmed by the proverb John 4:37: “ one...another....” ᾿Αληθινός , not in the sense of ἀληθής , veritable, which says truth, but in the ordinary Johannean sense: which answers to the idea of the thing; thus: The or (without the ὁ ) a saying which is the true maxim to be pronounced. This distinction, of which they have this day the evidence, between him who sows and him who reaps on this it is that the whole activity to which Jesus has called them will rest: such is the idea of John 4:38.

Ver. 38. As preachers, the apostles will do nothing but reap that which has been painfully sown by others. These last are, undoubtedly, John the Baptist and Jesus Himself, those two servants who, after having painfully ploughed the furrow, have watered with their blood the seed which they had deposited in it. Only there is ordinarily a misapprehension of the allusion which Jesus makes to the particular fact which has given occasion to these words, and which is, as it were, an illustration of them. “That will happen in all your career which is occurring to-day.” I have sent you to reap: Jesus had done this by calling them to the apostleship (John 6:70; Luk 6:13 ). That on which you have not labored: This harvest in Samaria they have not prepared it, any more than they have prepared that which they will reap afterwards in preaching the Gospel. Others have labored: in the present case, Jesus and the Samaritan woman the one by His word, the other by her eager hastening. What an enigma for the disciples this population hastening to Jesus to surrender themselves to His divine influence, and, what is more, Samaritans! What has taken place in their absence?

Who has prepared such a result? Who has sown this sterile ground? Jesus seems to rejoice in their surprise. And it is, no doubt, with a friendly smile that He throws out to them these mysterious words: Others labored. They may see here an example of what they will afterwards experience: In all their ministry nothing different will occur. Commentators discuss the question whether, by this word others, Jesus designates Himself alone (Lucke, Tholuck, de Wette, Meyer and Weiss), taking others as the plural of category; or Himself and the prophets, including John the Baptist (Keil); or all these personages except Jesus (Olshausen). Westcott applies this word others to all the servants of God in the Old Testament (perhaps with an allusion to Jos 24:13 ).

The disciples have entered into the work of their predecessors through their fruitful ministry in Judea ( Joh 4:2 ). But to what end say all this precisely in Samaria? The two most curious explanations are certainly those of Baur and Hilgenfeld. According to the first, by the term others, Jesus designates the evangelist Philip (Acts 8:0), and by the reapers, the apostles, Peter and John, in the story in Acts 8:15. To the view of the second, the term others designates St. Paul; and the reapers are the Twelve, who seek to appropriate to themselves the fruit of his labor among the Gentiles. On these conditions, one might wager that he could find anything in any text whatever. These forced meanings and the grave critical consequences which are drawn from them, arise in large measure from the fact that the wonderful appropriateness of these words of Jesus, as He applied them to the given situation, has not been apprehended.

Jesus is thinking undoubtedly on His own work and that of John, and the perfect: you are entered, is indeed that which is ordinarily understood by it, a prophetic anticipation; but this form can be well explained only by means of a present fact which suggests it. We discover here, with Gess, the contrast between the manner in which Jesus regarded His work and the idea which the forerunner had formed of it beforehand. “For the latter the time of the Messiah was the harvest; Jesus, on the contrary, here regards the days of His flesh as a mere time of sowing.” We can understand how it must have been more and more difficult for John to bring his thought into accord with the work of Jesus.

The heavenly joy which fills the Lord's heart throughout this section has its counterpart only in the passage, Luke 10:17-24. Here it even assumes a character of gaiety. Is it John's fault, if Renan finds in the Jesus of the fourth Gospel only a heavy metaphysician?

Verses 39-42

Vv. 39-42. “ Now many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him because of the word of the woman who testified: He told me all things that I have done. 40. When, therefore, the Samaritans came unto him, they besought him to abide with them; and he abode there two days. 41. And many more believed on him because of his word. 42. And they said to the woman: No longer because of thy saying do we believe; for we have heard him ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.

Here now is the harvest-feast announced in John 4:36: The sower rejoices with the reapers. This time passed at Sychar leaves an ineffaceable impression on the hearts of the apostles, and the sweetness of this recollection betrays itself in the repetition of the words two days, in the fortieth and forty-third verses. Δέ , now, resumes the course of the narrative after the digression in John 4:31-38. What a difference between the Samaritans and the Jews! Here a miracle of knowledge, without eclat, is enough to dispose the hearts of the people to come to Jesus, while in Judea eight months of toil have not procured for him one hour of such refreshment.

The thirty-ninth verse has shown us the first degree of faith: The coming to Jesus, as the result of testimony. The fortieth and forty-first verses present the higher degree of faith, its development through personal contact with Jesus.



1. The repetition of the statement of Joh 4:29 in Joh 4:39 is confirmatory of the view given in the preceding note of the character and source of the impression produced on the woman's mind. The “many” alluded to in Joh 4:41 believed because of His word. We have, accordingly, in this whole section from Joh 3:1 to John 4:42, cases of persons who had their faith awakened by personal communication with Jesus and by listening to what He said.

2. The expression referring to the matter of belief which is peculiar to this case of the many, is that they said they knew this man to be the Saviour of the world. The testimony of Jesus, as thus indicated, was to the end of the universality of His work. Weiss, in his edition of Meyer's Commentary, holds that this expression is put into the mouth of these Samaritans by the evangelist, opposing thus the view of Meyer who agrees with Godet.

But the natural pointing of the words of Jesus with respect to worship is towards the possibility of true worship in the case of any man, and independently of place, and this question of worship was the one which these people were most likely to have discussed with Jesus as the great question pertaining to their nation and the Jews. If in their communications with Him they become convinced of His wonderful character, and had even a glimpse of this independency of place belonging to the true worship, their thought must have gone out beyond national limitations to a universal worshiping of God. That they had a clear and full comprehension of this, as the writer had at the time of his writing, is not probable.

Such a supposition is not required by their use of the words. But that they should have expressed the thought, which they must have derived as intimated above, by these words, is not to be regarded as unnatural. Jesus taught His disciples by the suggestion of great thoughts. They had but a feeble grasp of them at the first. At a later time, they entered into deeper knowledge. But the story, as told from the standpoint of the later period, must be interpreted, oftentimes, not from the time of the recording of it, but from that of the events.

An illustrative example may be found in John 16:30. How true to the life are the words of the disciples which are there recorded: “Now we know that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any one should ask thee.” And yet, how evident it is that in relation to what His meaning was their minds had, at the most, only a glimmering of the light. Indeed, the very words of Jesus which follow seem to intimate this: “Do ye now believe? Behold the hour cometh, yea, is come, that ye shall be scattered every man to his own and shall leave me alone.” The word which He spoke to Peter at the end with reference to His departure to the unseen world, might, in a certain sense, be applied to His life with His disciples in the region of the truth: “Thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me afterwards.” So, in this case of the Samaritan believers, the words which were used were the expression of the first outgoing of their thought beyond the boundaries of their own nation and beyond the Jews. But the appreciation of what salvation for the world was this could only be gained many years afterwards. The story tells what they said, and they may well have said these words. The meaning of the words to their minds must be judged of, not by what we know, but by what they knew.

Verse 41

Vv. 41 marks a two-fold advance, one in the number of believers, the other in the nature of their faith. This latter advance is expressed in the words: Because of His word, contrasted with the words: Because of the woman's story ( Joh 4:39 ); it is reflectively formulated in the declaration of John 4:42. The Samaritans reserve the more grave term λόγος for the word of Jesus; they apply to the talk of the woman the term λαλία , which has in it, undoubtedly, nothing contemptuous (John 8:43, where Jesus applies it to His own discourses), but which denotes something more outward, a mere report, a piece of news. The verb ἀκηκόαμεν , we have heard, has in the Greek no object; the idea is concentrated in the subject αὐτοί : “We have ourselves become hearers;” whence follows: “And as such we know.” The reading of the Sinaitic MS.: “We have heard from him (from his mouth) and we know that...,” would give to the following profession the character of an external and slavish repetition, opposed to the spirit of the narrative. The expression: The Saviour of the world seems to indicate an advance in the notion of the Messiah in these Samaritans. The question is of salvation, and no longer merely of teaching as in John 4:25. This expression is, perhaps, connected with the word of Jesus to the woman ( Joh 4:22 ), which Jesus must have developed to them: “ Salvation is from the Jews.”

Tholuck and Lucke suspect the historical truth of this term Saviour of the world, as too universalistic in the mouth of these Samaritans. By what right? Did not these people possess in their Pentateuch the promise of God to Abraham: “ All the families of the earth shall be blessed in thy seed,” to which Jesus might have called their attention? And had they not just been, during those two days, in direct contact with the love of the true Christ, so opposite to the particularistic arrogance of Jewish Pharisaism? The Alexandrian authorities reject the words ὁ χριστός , the Christ. Undoubtedly there might be seen in them the seal of the union announced by Jesus ( Joh 4:23-24 ) between the Samaritans (the Saviour of the world) and the Jews (the Christ). But it is easier to understand how this term may have been added, than how it could have been rejected.

The eager welcome which Jesus found among the Samaritans is an example of the effect which the coming of Christ should have produced among His own. The faith of these strangers was the condemnation of Israel's unbelief. It was, undoubtedly, under this impression that Jesus, after those two exceptional days in His earthly existence, resumed His journey to Galilee.

Verses 43-45

Vv. 43-45 describe the general situation. Then, on this foundation there rises the following incident ( Joh 4:46-54 ). We may compare here the relation of the conversation with Nicodemus to the general representation in John 2:23-25, or that of the last discourse of the forerunner to the representation in John 3:22-24.

Vv. 43-45. “ After these two days, he departed thence and went away into Galilee. 44. For Jesus Himself had declared that a prophet has no honor in his own country. 45. When therefore he came into Galilee, the Galileans received him, because they had seen all the things that he did in Jerusalem, at the feast; for they also went to the feast. ” This passage has from the beginning been a crux interpretum. How can John give as the cause ( for, Joh 4:44 ) of the return of Jesus to Galilee this declaration of the Lord “that no prophet is honored in his own country!” And how can he connect with this adage as a consequence ( therefore, Joh 4:45 ) the fact that the Galileans gave Him an eager welcome?

1. Bruckner and Luthardt think that Jesus sought either conflict (Bruckner) or solitude ( Luthardt). This would well explain the for of John 4:44. But it would be necessary to admit that the foresight of Jesus was greatly deceived ( Joh 4:45 ), which is absolutely opposed to the particle οὖν ( therefore), which connects Joh 4:45 with the preceding. Instead of therefore, but would have been necessary. Moreover, Jesus did not seek conflict, since He abandoned Judea in order to avoid it; still less solitude, for He wished to work.

2. Weiss, nearly like Bruckner : Jesus leaves to His disciples the care of reaping joyously in Samaria afterwards; He Himself goes to seek the hard labor of the sower in Galilee. But the thought of the future evangelization of Samaria is altogether foreign to this passage (see above); and Joh 4:45 is opposed to this sense; for it makes prominent precisely the fact that Jesus found in Galilee the most eager welcome. Weiss escapes this difficulty only by making the therefore of Joh 4:45 relate to Joh 4:43 and not to John 4:44, and by making it a particle designed to indicate the resumption of the narrative. But after the for of John 4:44, therefore has necessarily the argumentative sense.

3. According to Lucke, de Wette and Tholuck, the for of Joh 4:44 is designed to explain, not what precedes, but the fact which is about to be announced, John 4:45. The sense would, thus, be: “Jesus had indeed declared...;” this indeed relating to the fact mentioned in John 4:45, that the Galileans no doubt received Him, but only because of the miracles of which they had been witnesses. But this very rare use of γάρ is foreign to the New Testament. This interpretation is hardly less forced than that of Kuinoel, who gives to for the sense of although, as also Ostervald translates.

4. Origen, Wieseler, Ebrard, Baur and Keil understand by ἰδία πατρίς ( his own country), Judea, as the place of Jesus' birth. By this means, the two difficulties of the for and the therefore pass away at once. But common sense tells us that, in the maxim quoted by Jesus, the word country must denote the place where the prophet has lived and where he has been known from infancy, and not that where he was merely born. It is, therefore, very evident that, in the thought of John, His own country is Galilee.

5. Calvin, Hengstenberg and Baumlein understand by his own country especially Nazareth, in contrast with the rest of Galilee, and with Capernaum in particular where He went to make His abode. He came, not to Nazareth, as might have been expected, but to Capernaum. (Comp. Mark 6:1; Matthew 13:54-57; Luke 4:16; Luke 4:24.) Lange applies the term country to the whole of lower Galilee, in which Nazareth was included, in opposition to upper Galilee where Jesus went to fix His abode from this time. But how could Nazareth, or the district of Nazareth, be thus, without further explanation, placed outside of Galilee, or even in contrast with that province? It might still be comprehensible, if, in the following narrative, John showed us Jesus fixing His abode at Capernaum; but it is to Cana that He betakes Himself, and this town was very near to Nazareth.

6. Meyer seems to us quite near the truth, when he explains: Jesus, knowing well that a prophet is not honored in his own country, began by making Himself honored outside of it, at Jerusalem ( Joh 4:45 ); and thus it was that He returned now to Galilee with a reputation as a prophet, which opened for Him access to hearts in His own country. Reuss is disposed to hold the same relation of thought: “In order to be received in Galilee, He had been obliged first to make Himself acknowledged outside of it.”

The complete explanation of this obscure passage follows, as in so many cases, from the relation of the fourth Gospel to the Synoptics. The latter make the Galilean ministry begin immediately after the baptism. But John reminds us here, at the time of Jesus' settlement in Galilee, that Jesus had followed a course quite different from that which the earlier narratives seemed to attribute to Him. The Lord knew that the place where a prophet has lived is the one where, as a rule, he has most difficulty in finding recognition. He began, therefore, by working at Jerusalem and in Judea for quite a long time (almost a whole year: Joh 4:35 ), and it was only after this that He came in the strict sense to begin His ministry in Galilee, that ministry with which the narrative of the other Gospels opens. The meaning, therefore, is: It was then, and only then, (not immediately after the baptism), that He commenced the Galilean work with which every one is acquainted. We find in this passage, as thus understood, a new confirmation of our remarks on John 3:24. If the for, John 4:44, indicates the cause of Jesus' mode of acting, the therefore, John 4:45, brings out in relief the joyful result and serves thus to justify the wisdom of the course pursued. The Galileans who had seen Him at work on the grand theatre of the capital, made no difficulty now in welcoming Him. The words καὶ ἀπῆλθεν , and went away, are rejected by the Alexandrian authorities; perhaps they were added from John 4:13.



1. The explanation of Joh 4:44 which is given by Godet and Meyer, is in all probability the correct one: namely, that Jesus made His entrance upon His ministry in Galilee only after He had been at Jerusalem and had, as it were, assumed His office there and after He had there gained the attention of the people in some degree because of His knowledge of the general truth stated in this verse. Of the very recent writers on this Gospel, Keil, Westcott, Milligan and Moulton hold that the reference of the words his own country, so far as Jesus is concerned, is to Judea, and not to Galilee. He went away from Judea to Galilee, therefore, because He did not find honor in the former region. Westcott even thinks that it is impossible that John should speak of Galilee in this connection as Christ's own country. But let us observe: ( a) that John does not anywhere state that Jesus had His home or birthplace in Judea; ( b) that in John 7:41-42, to which Westcott refers, the people question as to whether He can be the Christ because He comes from Galilee as they suppose; ( c) that Philip speaks of Him to Nathanael in Joh 1:45 as of Nazareth, and Nathanael, in John 1:46, hesitates to believe because of this fact; ( d) that He is called Jesus of Nazareth in all the Gospels; ( e) that according to Matthew and Luke, who give the story of his birth at Bethlehem, His childhood's home was Nazareth; ( f) that the proverb here used is referred by the earlier Gospels to Nazareth; ( g) that the words: He came to his own, John 1:11, which are sometimes referred to as favoring the idea that Judea is meant here, have no real force as bearing upon the question, first, because all the Jews were “His own” and not merely the Judean Jews, and secondly, because, if this be not so, there is evidently in those words no exclusive reference to His first visit to Jerusalem, but, on the other hand, a pointing to the whole attitude of the Jews, especially the leading Jews, towards Him. The relation of Jesus to Nazareth is presented in such a way in all the Gospels this one as well as the earlier three as to show that it was evidently looked upon as His home and that Galilee was His country, notwithstanding the fact that His birth had taken place at Bethlehem.

2. Joh 4:43 takes up the narrative from Joh 4:1-2 of this chapter and carries on the story of the return to Galilee, which had been interrupted by the account of the meeting with the woman of Samaria, etc. Those first verses intimate that Jesus had had very considerable success in Jerusalem and Judea He was making and baptizing, it was said, more disciples than John. Joh 4:45 indicates the same thing. The connection of the verses is, therefore, unfavorable to the view that the proverb is introduced here as referring to Judea. Weiss, on the other hand, holds that the connection here is with the matter of leaving Samaria, and he explains the 44th verse by saying that Jesus leaves Samaria, where He had already gained honor ( Joh 4:42 ), to labor to the end of gaining it in Galilee the disciples were to be left to reap the harvest in Samaria, while He was to go as a sower to a region where, according to the proverb, the foundation work was still to be done. But, in addition to what Godet says against this view, there is every reason to believe that the disciples accompanied Jesus into Galilee. The connection of this statement with the idea of sowing and reaping ( Joh 4:35-38 ), is quite improbable. Those verses contain an incidental saying suggested by the circumstances of the visit to Sychar. But now the story moves on to an entirely new matter, and it is not to be believed that the writer would expect his readers to think of such a connection, without bringing it out more clearly in what he was writing.

Verses 43-54

Third Section: 4:43-54. Jesus in Galilee.

In Judea, unbelief had prevailed. In Samaria, faith had just appeared. Galilee takes an intermediate position. Jesus is received there, but by reason of His miracles accomplished at Jerusalem, and on condition of responding immediately to this reception by new prodigies. The following narrative (comp. Joh 4:48 ) furnishes the proof of this disposition of mind. Such is the import of this narrative in the whole course of the Gospel.



With reference to Joh 4:46-54 it may be remarked:

1. The writer seems purposely to introduce the allusion to the former miracle at Cana. He is about to close that portion of his narrative which is, in any sense, united with the story of the first visit of Jesus to Jerusalem. The closing section of this part is a miracle wrought by Jesus, and in the same region where the story began. We may believe that this miracle set its seal upon the faith that had grown up in the minds of the disciples in connection with all the testimony which had now been received by them, as the former one had established the beginning of their belief, founded upon the first sight of Jesus. The careful arrangement of the author's plan, as related to the bringing out of the two ideas of testimony and belief, is seen again here, as it is both before this and afterwards.

2. That this story of the healing of the son of the royal officer is not to be identified with that in Matthew 8:5 ff., Luke 7:2 ff., is maintained by most of the recent commentators on this Gospel. The main points of difference, which are certainly very striking, and which bear upon all the elements of the story, are pointed out by Godet. In the case of two stories of common life, where the sick person was in one a son, in another a servant; where the disease was in one a paralysis, in the other a fever; where the person performing the cure was, in one, at one place, and in the other, at another; where all the words used on all sides were different; where, in one, the petitioner for the cure urges the physician to hasten to his house that he may cure the sick person before it is too late, and, in the other, tells him that it is unnecessary for him to go to the house at all; where in the one the petitioner finds the sick person healed on the same day on which he makes his request, and in the other only learns the fact on the next day; and where, to say the least, there is no evidence that the petitioner was the same person in the two cases, but, on the other hand, he is described by different words, and all his thoughts as related to the matter are different, it would be supposed that the two stories referred to different facts. But we are not expected by the exacting critics to deal with the New Testament narratives in this way. Weiss thinks that the oldest form of the Synoptic narrative is here found in Matthew and that he means by παῖς son, (not servant), that is to say, the υἱός of John, and that Luke misapprehended the meaning, and called the παῖς , δοῦλος . May not Weiss himself possibly have misapprehended the meaning? Luke's advantages for determining this question would seem, on the whole, to be equally great with those of a scholar of this generation. But while Luke did not know that the sick person was a son, and not a servant, he is, according to Weiss, nearer the original source than Matthew, in saying simply that he was sick and near to death, instead of saying that he had paralysis. John, however, we may observe, moves off in another line, and thinks he had a fever. The reconstruction of the Gospel narratives must be admitted to be a pretty delicate task, when it has to make its winding way through the work of bringing two such stories into one.

3. The part of this passage which is most difficult to be explained is the 48th verse. The father who comes to Jesus seems to give no indication of any want of faith. On the contrary, his coming is, in itself, apparently an evidence of faith. Joh 4:50 shows that he was ready to believe, even on the foundation of Jesus' assurance that his son lives, and without any movement on Jesus' part towards Capernaum. Immediately on his return home, and on seeing the fulfillment of the word of Jesus, he becomes His disciple. It is possible, indeed, that this word of Jesus in Joh 4:48 was the turning-point for the nobleman from a weak towards a stronger faith; but nothing in the narrative clearly indicates this.

It is possible, on the other hand, that this call for miraculous aid turns the thought of Jesus to the general state of mind of the people, and that He has reference to this only in His words. But the words πρὸς αὐτόν , and the difficulty of supposing that He would address a man under such circumstances in this way, when the man's faith was not at all of the character described, are serious objections to this view. Probably we must explain the verse by combining both views, and at least find in the bearing of the words upon the man himself some designed educational influence as to the true nature of faith. 4. The miracle here wrought differs from the one recorded in John 2:1-11, in that it was wrought at a distance. It is in this respect that it gives a new testimony, and for this reason, as we may believe, it is introduced into the narrative. The other points in which its character varied from that of the one in Cana were less important for the writer's purpose.

Verse 44

Ver. 44. Αὐτός , he, the same who apparently was acting in an opposite way. The solution of the contradiction is given in John 4:45. ᾿Εμαρτύρησεν , testified, can here, whatever Meyer, Weiss, etc., may say, have only the sense of the pluperfect, like ἐποίησεν and ἦλθον which follow. It is difficult to believe, indeed, that John quotes here, for the purpose of explaining the conduct of Jesus, a declaration which was uttered at an epoch much farther on, like that of Mark 6:4. Comp. Luke 4:24, which assigns to this saying a much earlier date. The idea of the quoted proverb is that one is less disposed to recognize a superior being in a fellow countryman, very nearly connected with us, than in a stranger who is clothed, to our view, in a veil of mystery. But after that this same man has brought himself to notice elsewhere and on a wider theatre, this glory opens the way for Him to the hearts of His own fellow- citizens. That moment had arrived for Jesus; this is the reason why He now braves the vulgar prejudice which He had Himself pointed out; and of which we have seen an instance in the reply of Nathanael, John 1:47. And the success justifies this course. The words πάντα ἑωρακότες , having seen..., explain the ἐδέξαντο , they received: there is undoubtedly an allusion to John 2:23-25. This verse finds its commentary in Luke 4:14-15: “ And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and his fame spread abroad through all the region round about; and He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

Verses 46-47

Vv. 46, 47. “ He came, therefore, again to Cana of Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. And there was at Capernaum a king's officer, whose son was sick. 47. He, having heard that Jesus had come from Judea into Galilee, went unto him and besought him that he would come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.

Therefore connects with Joh 4:3 and John 4:45. Jesus directed His course towards Cana, not, as Weiss thinks, because His family had settled there (comp. Joh 2:12 with Mat 4:13 ), but undoubtedly because it was there that He could hope to find the soil best prepared, by reason of His previous visit. This is perhaps what St. John means to intimate by the reflection, “ where he had changed the water into wine. ” His coming made a sensation, and the news promptly spread as far as Capernaum, situated seven or eight leagues eastward of Cana. The term βασιλικός , in Josephus, denotes a public functionary, either civil or military, sometimes also an employe8 of the royal house. This last meaning is here the most natural one. Herod Antipas, who reigned in Galilee, had officially only the title of tetrarch. But in the popular language that of King, which his father had borne, was given him. It is not impossible that this nobleman of the king's household may have been either Chuza, “Herod's steward” ( Luk 8:3 ), or Manaen, his “foster-brother” ( Act 3:1 ). By its position at the end of the clause, the defining expression at Capernaum (which refers, not to was sick, but to there was) strongly emphasizes the notoriety which the return of Jesus had speedily acquired in Galilee.

Verse 48

Ver. 48. “ Jesus therefore said to him: Unless ye see signs and wonders ye will in no wise believe.

This reply of Jesus is perplexing; for it seems to suppose that this man asked for the miracle to the end of believing, which is certainly not the case. But the difficulty is explained by the plurals, ye see, ye will believe, which prove that this expression is not the reply to the father's request, but a reflection which He makes on occasion of that request. It is true, He addresses the remark to the man who is the occasion of it ( πρὸς αὐτόν ), but He speaks thus, with reference to all the Galilean people, whose moral tendency this man represents, to His view, at this moment. Indeed, the disposition which Jesus thus meets at the moment when He sets foot again on Israelitish soil, is the tendency to see in Him only a thaumaturge (worker of miracles); and He is so much the more painfully affected since He has just passed two days in Samaria, in contact with an altogether opposite spirit. There, it was as the Saviour of souls that He was welcomed. Here, it is bodily cures which are immediately asked of Him. He seems to be fit for nothing but to heal. And He is obliged to confess such is the true meaning of His word that if He refuses to play this part, there is reason to fear that no one will believe, or rather, according to the slightly ironical turn of expression of which He makes use ( οὐ μή ), “that it is not to be feared that any one will believe.”

There is likewise the expression of a painful feeling in the accumulation of the two nearly synonymous terms σημεῖα and τέρατα , signs and wonders. The first designates the miracle as related to the fact of the invisible world which it manifests; the second characterizes it as related to external nature, whose laws it sets at defiance. The latter term, therefore, brings out with more force the sensible character of the supernatural manifestation. The meaning, therefore, is: “You must have signs; and you are not satisfied unless these signs have the character of wonders.” Some have found in ἴδητε , ye see, an allusion to the request which is addressed to Him to go personally to the sick person, which proves, it is said, that the father wishes to see the healing with his own eyes. But in that case ἴδητε ought to stand at the beginning; and the meaning is forced.

Verses 49-50

Vv. 49, 50. “ The officer says to him: Sir, come down ere my child die. 50. Jesus says to him: Go thy way, thy son liveth. And the man believed the word which Jesus had said to him, and he went his way.

The father has well understood that the remark of Jesus is not an answer, and consequently not a refusal. He renews his request, employing the term of affection τὸ παιδίον μου , my little child, which renders his request more touching. Jesus yields to the faith which breathes in his prayer, but in such a way as immediately to elevate the faith to a higher degree. There are at once in this answer: “ Go thy way, thy son liveth,” a granting of the request and a partial refusal, which is a test. The healing is granted; but without Jesus leaving Cana; He wishes this time to be believed on His word. Until now the father had believed on the testimony of others. Now his faith is to rest on a better support, on the personal contact which he has just had with the Lord Himself. For the term παιδίον Jesus substitutes υἱός , son. This is the term of dignity; it exalts the worth of the child, as representing the family. The father lays hold by faith upon the promise of Jesus, that is to say, on Jesus Himself in His word; the test is sustained.

Verses 51-53

Vv. 51-53. “ As he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him saying.Thy son liveth. 52. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to mend. They said to him: yesterday, at the seventh hour, the fever left him.

53. The father, therefore, knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus had said to him:Thy son liveth. And he believed, himself and all his house. ” The servants, in their report, use neither the term of affection ( παιδίον ), which would be too familiar, nor that of dignity ( υἱός ), which would not be familiar enough, but that of family life: παῖς , the child, which the T. R. rightly gives. The selected term κομψότερον , suits well the mouth of a man of rank. It is the expression of a comparative improvement; as we say, finely. The seventh hour, according to the ordinary Jewish mode of reckoning, denotes one o'clock in the afternoon (see on Joh 1:40 ). But if it was at that hour that Jesus had given his answer to the father, how was it that he did not return to his home on the same day? For seven leagues only separate him from his house. Those also who, like Keil, Westcott, etc., think that John used, in general, the mode of reckoning the hours which was usual in the Roman courts, support their view, with a certain probability, by our passage. Nevertheless, even on the supposition that Χθές , yesterday, proves that it was really the following day, in the ordinary sense of the word, this delay may be explained either by the necessity of letting his horses rest or by the fear of traveling by night. But the term yesterday does not even compel us to suppose that a night has elapsed since the healing of the child. For as the day, according to the Hebrews, closed at sunset, the servants might, some hours after this, say yesterday.

At this moment the faith of this man rises, at last, to a higher degree, that of personal experience. Hence the repetition of the word: and he believed; comp. John 2:11. The entire household is borne on by this movement of faith impressed on the heart of their head.

Verse 54

Ver. 54. “ Jesus did, again, this second sign, on coming out of Judea into Galilee.

The word δεύτερον cannot be an adverb: for the second time; this would be a useless synonym for πάλιν , again. It is, then, an adjective, and, notwithstanding the absence of an article, a predicative adjective. “He did again ( πάλιν ) this miracle, and that as a second one.” There is evidently something strange in this somewhat extreme manner of expressing himself: again and as a second. There is an indication here which betrays one of those disguised intentions which are so frequent in the fourth Gospel. The expression employed here can only be explained by closely connecting the verb did with the participle coming into, which follows. Other miracles in large numbers had occurred between the first act at Cana, Joh 2:11 and this one; this was not therefore the second, speaking absolutely. Two ideas are united in this clause: He did a second miracle at Cana, and He did it again on coming from Judea into Galilee. In other terms: Also this second time Jesus signalized His return to Galilee, as the first time, by a new miracle done at Cana. It will be in vain to refuse to acknowledge this intention of the evangelist. It is a fact, that John shows himself concerned to distinguish these first two returns which the tradition had confounded. He makes prominent the miracle of chap. 2 and this one as the two enduring monuments of that distinction.

Irenaeus, Semler, de Wette, Baur, Ewald, Weiss, unhesitatingly identify this miracle with the healing of the Gentile centurion's servant, Mat 8:5 and Luke 7:3. As to the differences of details, they give the preference, some to the account of the Synoptics, others to that of John. In the two cases, the cure is wrought at a distance; this is all that the two events have in common. The charge of unbelief which, in the view of Weiss, is another common feature, on the contrary profoundly distinguishes them. For, in John, it is addressed to the people including the father, while in the Synoptics it applies only to the nation from which the father is distinguished as the example of the most extraordinary faith of which Jesus has yet been witness. And yet here is the same story! Moreover, all the details are different, even opposite. Here a father and his son, there a master and his servant. Here a Jew, there a Gentile. Here it is at Cana, there at Capernaum, that the event occurs. Here the father wishes Jesus to travel to the distance of six leagues; there the centurion absolutely denies the intention of making Him come to his house, and this in the same city. Finally, as we have said; here is a sample of the sickly faith of the Galileans; there an incomparable example of faith given by a Gentile to the whole people of Israel. If these two narratives refer to the same event, the Gospel history is thoroughly unsound. Weiss so clearly sees this alleged identity melt away in his hands, that he is obliged to bring in a third story, that of the healing of the epileptic child (Matthew 17:0), with which John blended the one which occupies our attention.

This 54th verse closes the cycle began at John 2:12, as its counterpart Joh 2:11 closed the cycle opened by John 1:19. Of these two cycles, the first recounts the manner in which Jesus passed from private life to His public ministry: the latter relates the beginnings of His work.

The first contains three groups of narratives: 1. The testimonies of John the Baptist; 2. The coming to Jesus of His first disciples; 3. The wedding at Cana. The second shows us Jesus: 1. In Judea; 2. In Samaria; 3. In Galilee. Each particular narrative is preceded by a short preamble in which the general situation is sketched (John 2:12-13; John 2:23-25; John 3:22-24; Joh 4:1-3 and Joh 4:43-45 ). The revelation of Jesus goes forward in a continuous way: at the Jordan, at Cana, in the temple, with Nicodemus, in Samaria, in Galilee. But the national unbelief manifests itself: before it, He is obliged to retire from the temple to the city, from the city to the country, from Judea to Galilee. But, at the same time, faith comes to light and is developed: in all its integrity in the disciples; as a feeble glimmering in Nicodemus; dimmed by an intermingling of carnal elements in Galilee.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 4". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books".